Between 2016-2017, we coordinated a campaign against the Home Office’s policy of detaining and deporting EEA national rough sleepers. #cutthecollaboration
On December 14th 2017 the High Court ruled the Home Office’s policy of detaining and removing EEA rough sleepers unlawful. The full judgment can be found here.
Being homeless is not a crime
In May 2016, the Home Office published a policy that said rough sleeping was an ‘abuse’ of EU citizens’ right of freedom of movement. This rule was being used to round up rough sleepers across London and take them to detention centres. Polish and Romanian homeless people in particular were falling victim to immigration enforcement.
The divisive policy criminalised some of the most vulnerable people in Britain. Rather than being helped to access the social services they needed, homeless people were seeing their sleeping sites raided. Some were detained immediately while others were issued with removal papers.
Three of London’s largest homelessness charities (St. Mungo’s, Thames Reach and Change, Grow, Live – formerly known as Crime Reduction Initiative) were collaborating with the Home Office to have EU rough sleepers detained without charge and removed to their country of origin purely on the basis that they were rough sleeping.
Local authority-commissioned street outreach teams from St. Mungo’s, Thames Reach and Change, Grow, Live patrolled alongside Immigration Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) teams and shared the locations of European nationals sleeping rough, circumventing the requirement that individuals consent to their personal information being shared. In some cases, they ‘referred’ individuals to the Home Office without their consent. The involvement of local councils and homelessness charities in immigration raids on rough sleepers is symptomatic of the extension of border controls into all aspects of civil society in the UK.
Apart from believing that homelessness is not a crime, we believe that the Home Office is targeting some of the most vulnerable people in our society—people who should be supported, not criminalised.
Schools, landlords, hospitals – borders are everywhere. It’s extremely difficult for migrants to trust officials and institutions, and the homelessness charities’ complicity with the Home Office has done irreparable damage by adding to the suspicion, wariness and fear that many migrants feel.
Read our interviews with people affected by the Home Office’s policy of detaining and deporting rough sleepers to find out more about this issue:
Our writing on the issue:
Press coverage of the issue: