Mr Justice Ouseley granted permission to judicially review the Home Office’s policy and its implementation on the following grounds:
- Rough sleeping cannot be equated with ‘abuse’ or ‘misuse’ of the right to freedom of movement.
- The systematic verification of EEA nationals right to reside may be unlawful and so the Home Office Immigration Enforcement teams should not be conducting those operations.
- The policy is discriminatory on the grounds of property.
The full hearing is due to take place in October 2017, unless the Home Office decides to withdraw the policy before then. In the meantime, our expectation is that any EEA nationals served with a notice of removal should be able to postpone their appeal against removal pending the outcome of the judicial review.
Under the policy, introduced by the Home Office in May 2016 and revised on 1 February 2017 rough sleeping is considered an ‘abuse’ or ‘misuse’ of EU citizens’ right to freedom of movement. The policy has been applied indiscriminately, with the Home Office detaining and removing working people and others who have been in the UK for many years. Operations to identify and remove rough sleepers are conducted by Immigration Officers in collaboration with local authorities, some homelessness charities and the Police. The High Court also granted permission to challenge these operations on the basis that the systematic verification of EEA Nationals right to reside in the UK may be unlawful. During a two-month pilot in Westminster in 2015, 127 homeless people were deported. The Home Office has failed to publish one-year figures, despite Freedom of Information request having been submitted on 5th April. We estimate the number of people detained and removed under this policy to be in the hundreds, if not thousands, across the UK.
In March, campaign group North East London Migrant Action () set up a phone advice line and legal clinic to support people affected by the policy. Volunteer solicitors and barristers have been advising rough sleepers and representing them where possible. They have also visited immigration detainees unable to get legal advice due to cuts to legal aid, which stop the most vulnerable having access to lawyers. Claimants in the legal case—rough sleepers who have been unlawfully detained or had their documents confiscated—have so far been refused legal aid. This is because the legal aid agency believes such claims should be settled individually, on appeal, rather than through a challenge to the policy as whole. NELMA and the Public Interest Law Unit are currently trying to raise £5000 through a crowdfunder.
Homeless people affected by the policy have expressed their shock and distress at being targeted by Immigration Enforcement. Many people have reported having their documents confiscated by Immigration Enforcement Officers, making it impossible for them to look for work or resolve their housing situation.
Wojtek (not his real name), a Polish national who has been living and working in the UK since 2013, was given a notice of removal by the Home Office: “I feel that I am being treated like a criminal even though I haven’t done anything wrong. […] This policy really hurts people and is completely unreasonable. Most of the people I’ve met on the streets are in work but can’t afford accommodation. They really wanted to improve their situation [by coming here] and some of them had absolutely nothing in Poland. Deportation would not be a solution for them as they have no networks [at home].. The problem is accommodation – it’s too expensive for working people.’
Marineta and Teofil, a Romanian couple who were arrested at their sleeping site, spent nearly a month incarcerated at Yarl’s Wood detention centre: ‘We were released from Yarl’s Wood on February 16th, but they kept our documents and our IDs. Eventually we got a lawyer through NELMA. He sent a letter to the Home Office and got our IDs back. But this was not till May […] three months after we were released from detention. […] We lost five months of our life and lots of money [in potential earnings]. I was close to getting a stable job when they arrested us. Now we feel like we have to start again. We are Europeans. We have the same rights as anyone else, and deserve to be treated like any English person in the same situation. I know it’s to do with Brexit, but this is the wrong way to make people go.’
Please see the following documents for your information and assistance in appealing against Home Office decisions to remove EEA nationals because they are rough sleeping: