Twitter storm: stop homelessness charities collaborating with Immigration Compliance and Enforcement

Three of London’s largest homelessness charities (St. Mungo’s, Thames Reach and Change, Grow, Live – formerly known as Crime Reduction Initiative), Greater London Authority (GLA), local borough councils, and the Mayor of London are collaborating with the Home Office to have EU (European Union) rough sleepers detained without charge and removed to their country of origin purely on the basis that they are rough sleeping.
Since November 2015 the Home Office has considered rough sleeping an “abuse’’ (or, more recently, a ‘‘misuse’’) of EU Treaty right to freedom of movement. This change of policy has effectively criminalised EU nationals who are sleeping rough, making them liable to be served with removal papers or taken to detention centres and deported.

Local authority-commissioned outreach teams from St. Mungo’s, Thames Reach and Change, Grow, Live patrol alongside Immigration Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) teams and share the locations of European nationals sleeping rough, circumventing the requirement that rough sleepers consent to their personal information being shared. 

Homelessness is not a crime! 

NELMA (North East London Migrant Action) and HASL (Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth) are asking for your help to call on St Mungo’s, Thames Reach, and Change, Grow, Live to immediately stop collaborating with ICE in the detention and removal of EU nationals rough sleeping.

We want to hold these charities to account for their participation in the racist criminalisation of homelessness. We’re hoping that if we can demonstrate just how many of us disagree with what St Mungo’s, Thames Reach, and Change, Grow, Live are doing, we can convince them that they need to stop supporting this divisive new Home Office policy and instead advocate on behalf of rough sleepers against the government’s attack on EU nationals.

Show solidarity with vulnerable migrants in our communities!

Join us next Wednesday 8th March in creating a Twitter and email storm between 10am-12pm (but feel free to start before and continue after!). We’re asking people to Tweet St Mungo’s (@StMungos), Thamesreach (@ThamesReach), and Change, Grow, Live (@changegrowlive). We’re using the hashtags #CutTheCollaboration and #StopTheScandal to help keep track of them. We’ve included some sample tweets below which will easily allow you to express your anger:

Sample tweet 1

Sample tweet 2

Sample tweet 3

Sample tweet 4

We’ve also made a series of graphics (see below) to help the storm get more attention!

 

Please also help us put pressure on local councils to stop collaborating with ICE in the detention and deportation of rough sleeping EU nationals. 

We know that the following local authorities are complicit in this racist attack on rough sleepers:

Greenwich (@Royal_Greenwich), Camden (@camdentalking), Islington (@IslingtonBC), Tower Hamlets (@TowerHamletsNow), Waltham Forest (@wfcouncil), Hammersmith and Fulham (@LBHF), Kensington and Chelsea (@RBKC), Ealing (@EalingCouncil), Lewisham (@LewishamCouncil), Southwark (@lb_southwark), Haringey (@haringeycouncil), Lambeth (@lambeth_council), Westminster (@CityWestminster)

See FOIs submitted by HASL for more information.

We’d also like people to email St Mungo’s, Change, Grow, Live, and Thamesreach demanding answers. You can reach them at:

St Mungo’s: howard.sinclair@mungos.org, BoardofStMungos@mungosbroadway.org.uk, petra.salva@mungos.org

CGL: hilary.jackson@cgl.org.uk, david.biddle@cgl.org.uk, cgl@theproffice.com

Thamesreach: jeremy.swain@thamesreach.org.uk, kristian.draper@thamesreach.org.uk

We’d also invite people to cc us in to your emails using nelondonmigrantaction@gmail.com. We’ve drafted a template email at the end of this blogpost that you can send . Please feel free to amend or adjust as suits you.

Sample email

To: ChairofStMungos@mungosbroadway.org.uk, BoardofStMungos@mungosbroadway.org.uk, nelondonmigrantaction@gmail.com

Subject: Why are you collaborating with ICE in the detention and deportation of rough sleeping EU nationals?
Dear X

I am shocked to learn that a homeless charity such as yours is actively working with the Home Office’s Immigration and Enforcement (ICE) teams to facilitate the detention and removal of vulnerable EEA Nationals.

Homeless charities like yours should be working to support those sleeping rough – assisting them to find stable and safe accommodation, and applying pressure on government and local councils to provide more suitable and affordable housing – instead of colluding in the forced removal of EEA Nationals who are rough sleeping.  Such forced removal does not help those who are sleeping rough, but merely shifts them to do the same but in a different place.  Moreover, deporting people to countries like Poland when there are sub-zero temperatures is nothing short of murderous.As you are aware, homelessness is not a crime, nor is it a choice. We are experiencing a continued housing crisis, which is not the fault of vulnerable people.

 The recent Home Office policy of administrative removal for EEA Nationals who are rough sleeping is incredibly divisive. It ignores the many situations in which people find themselves homeless, through relationship breakdown, as a result of bereavement, and because of a precarious housing and labour market.

This is what makes your complicity in working in partnership with ICE teams and local authorities – colluding with them during enforcement operations, on patrols, and in sharing information about rough sleepers with them – even more insidious.

It is deeply troubling and shouldn’t be happening.

You must end your complicity in the detention and removal of EEA nationals, and I, like many others, are expecting a public comment on this from you, as well as a demonstrable guarantee and commitment that you will no longer collaborate with immigration authorities.Yours Sincerely,

XX

NELMA & Akwaaba Film Screening: L’Abri

abri_annonce_horiz_pt-580x282

Join NELMA and Akwaaba on Monday 27th February at 7pm at Hackney Picturehouse for an evening against refugee and migrant homelessness.

The evening will feature a Q&A with expert speakers, followed by a screening of Fernand Melgar’s L’Abri (The Shelter, 2014), which charts a cold winter at a refuge for homeless migrants in Lausanne, where those on duty have the nightly task of ‘sorting the poor’ and choosing fifty who can take shelter.

Join us to learn more about the issue of refugee and migrant homelessness – and find out how you can help.

All proceeds will go to Akwaaba, a Hackney-based social centre for refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants; and North East London Migrant Action (NELMA), a campaigning and solidarity group.

Tickets £5
Film rating: 18

We are looking to raise important funds for NELMA and Akwaaba through ticket sales on the night, but understand that not everyone may be in a position to buy a ticket. For anyone who would like to come along, but feel they are not able to pay an entrance fee, please contact akwaabalondon@gmail.com and we will happily add you to our guest list for free.

Update on EEA Admin Removals

Home Office guidance on administrative removals of EEA nationals was updated on 1 February. The Home Office have changed their rhetoric around rough sleeping (‘abuse’ is now ‘misuse’) and have clarified ‘proportionality’. See the full document here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/590663/GI-EEA-admin-removal-v3.pdf

In the past 2 weeks, there have been a number of policy changes where EEA/EU nationals are concerned (i.e. crackdowns by the government). This is summarised well with links to official documents here: https://www.freemovement.org.uk/new-policies-and-forms-for-eu-nationals-show-hardening-home-office-position/

Articles

Below is a list of recent news articles that have been published on the ‘administrative removals’ (deportation) of EEA rough sleepers.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/eastern-european-rough-sleepers-arrested-12605207#ICID=FB-Liv-main

http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/15074403.Immigration_officers_arrest_Polish_rough_sleeper/

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/sleeping-rough-isnt-choice-nor-it-illegal-so-why-do-we-deport-homeless-foreigners-1605829

https://onesmallwindow.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/deporting-eu-rough-sleepers-to-prevent-homelessness/

http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/14915856.Ten_European_rough_sleepers_arrested_and_threatened_with_deportation_in__quot_absurd_quot__immigration_raid/?ref=mac

http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/14927749._I_loved_Brighton_and_thought_I_could_settle_there___Polish_man_at_centre_of_deportation_row/

NELMA protest Haringey Council’s cruel treatment of families in need

On Tuesday 13 December, North East London Migrant Action (NELMA) [1] will be protesting Haringey Council’s failure to meet its obligations to destitute children and their families. The demonstration outside the Haringey Civic Centre in Wood Green will begin at 6pm, to coincide with Haringey Council’s Cabinet meeting at 6.30pm.

Through its work supporting migrant families with no recourse to public funds, NELMA has uncovered the systematic mishandling of cases by Haringey. The Labour-run Council’s wrongful ‘gatekeeping’ tactics are leaving destitute families who approach for support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 [2] homeless and at risk of exploitation.

While many London local authorities are failing to uphold their legal obligation [3] to support destitute children regardless of their immigration status, Haringey exemplify the worst of this pattern of bad practice. Haringey’s No Recourse to Public Funds Team adopts particularly aggressive forms of ‘gatekeeping’. NELMA has documented cases of Haringey social workers:

  •   threatening to take children away from their parents and into care when this is not in the best interests of the child;
  •   using aggressive (and sometimes racist) language;
  •   threatening families with deportation when they have no legal basis upon which to do so;
  •   falsely claiming that families are precluded from support on account of their immigration status.

The presence of Home Office officials during meetings with social workers constitutes another intimidation tactic. Destitute migrant families frequently emerge from meetings with Haringey Council frightened, exhausted and reduced to tears. Worst of all, they are routinely left destitute and homeless, with the Council refusing to provide urgently-needed interim support or even conduct an initial assessment of children’s needs. This is despite the fact that the threshold for conducting an assessment is very low: local authorities have a duty to assess any child who might be ‘in need’.

Haringey Council has a legal obligation to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children in need within its area. In cases where destitute families have no recourse to public funds (and thus cannot access mainstream benefits or housing), local authorities have a duty to provide statutory support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Families who seek such support do so because they face destitution and/or homelessness and have exhausted all other avenues. According to the Children’s Society, 6 in 10 families who applied for this support from London local authorities were turned away.[4] A child’s immigration status, or that of their parents, should not mean that they go hungry or without shelter.

NELMA has tried to address these issues with the Council through formal complaints, a Twitter campaign and a meeting with Councillor Elin Weston, the Cabinet member for Children and Young People. Local MP Catherine West has written to the Council about one NELMA family, who were evicted from Section 17 accommodation by Haringey Council, leaving them with nowhere to go.

Councillor Elin Weston has agreed to investigate the Council’s refusal to allow NELMA accompaniers to attend meetings with Haringey’s NRPF team and the question of whether Haringey Council erroneously believes Section 17 support to be a ‘public fund’ (that is, something that individuals and families with no recourse to public funds cannot access). Without public pressure, however, even these small promises might go unfulfilled. With immigration enforcement seeping into all aspects of public life and racism and xenophobia on the rise, resistance to the discriminatory treatment of migrants is more urgent now than ever.

Quotes:

Elife Akan, NELMA activist, says “Families have told me that approaching Haringey Council was “hell” and said they were treated like animals. I get that there’s a housing crisis in London and local authorities have had their funding cut, but that’s no excuse for treating people with such callous disregard! Children shouldn’t face homelessness just because of their immigration status.”

The mother of a destitute family, refused support under Section 17 by Haringey Council, says: “The Haringey social worker made sure life was horrible for me and my children. She went on a spree of lies, changing every word I mentioned to something else to suit her, calling me names and using some derogatory remarks […] The social worker’s name, Haringey council, police and social service have now become threats to my children that they do not want to hear.”

 

[1] North East London Migrant Action (NELMA) brings together activists from across London to campaign on issues faced by migrants in vulnerable positions in our communities. The group’s current focus is on challenging injustices towards families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF). See https://nelmacampaigns.wordpress.com/ and https://twitter.com/nelmacampaigns

[2] Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 states: “It shall be the general duty of every local authority (in addition to the other duties imposed on them by this Part)—

  1. to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need; and
  2. so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families, by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children’s needs.”

See http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1989/41/section/17

[3] For more information on local authorities’ duties under Section 17, see: http://www.project17.org.uk/media/7763/s17-Factshet-May-13.pdf

[4] See ‘Making Life Impossible’, The Children’s Society (April 2016) http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/making-life-impossible.pdf