Being homeless is not a crime: NELMA interview on the administrative removals of rough sleeping EU nationals

We were interviewed by Another Europe is Possible on the issue of the deportation of rough sleeping EU nationals.

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 12.20.32.png

Read the full article here.

Advertisements

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

New NELMA Manifesto

We are NELMA (North East London Migrant Action).

What we believe

We believe that no one is illegal.

We believe in a world without borders.

We stand in solidarity with all migrants regardless of status.  We believe everybody who is here has the right to be here, work here and be decently housed.

We believe that immigration detention is unjustifiable in principle and unworkable in practice.

We believe all children deserve the same opportunities—regardless of where they or their parents were born.

We reject the distinctions drawn by politicians and the mainstream media between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ migrants.

We reject the racist immigration controls that are creeping into almost every area of life in the UK.

We believe that NRPF—No Recourse to Public Funds—is state violence because it implies that some people are more worthy of help, support and the right to a decent life than others.

Being unable to get support from the state leaves people destitute.

It is a root cause of exploitation.

And it makes it harder for women to flee domestic violence.

 

What we do

We support migrants with no recourse to public funds to stand up for their rights.

We do this through activism, advocacy, solidarity and mutual support.

We accompany destitute migrant families approaching social services for support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989.

We resist unfair policies and practices, including local authority gatekeeping of Section 17 support.

We hold local authorities to account for bullying and intimidating destitute migrant families who turn to them for support.

 

We demand

An end to local authority gatekeeping of support for destitute migrants

The Home Office to be kept out of local authority Children’s Services

All migrants to have access to secure housing, adequate financial support and free school meals.

Testimonies

Testimonies from destitute migrant families who have approached London local authorities for support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989

‘You can’t go there on your own. I went [to Children’s Services] alone and called them from downstairs, asking to see someone. I was seven months pregnant and crying down the phone. They refused to come down to see me for the whole day.’

‘It took months to get a social worker to help me, partly because I had to be wait to be evicted. I went on my own and they wouldn’t see me at all.’

‘My solicitor had to send them a letter for them to house me. They said they weren’t there to help. Then they did the credit checks before they even saw the children. They don’t believe you are destitute, but why would you go there if you had anywhere else to be?’

‘When you don’t have papers, they treat you so badly, like you are not a person, or like you are irrelevant. We are all human beings – it doesn’t need to be like this.’

‘If someone has no recourse to public funds, how are they supposed to cope?’

‘The conducts of the social service team has made me and my children lose trust and confidence in them. I have been called […] unprintable names [including] ‘bush girl’. My daughter was shouted at. My social worker [turned up early in the morning while] my children were still in bed sleeping [and] demand[ed] I visit the council immediately without a prior appointment. [She] would lie and turned my words around [to the point at which] I needed a witness whenever I had to talk to the social worker.’

‘They are not supposed to treat people like animals. They need to stop this [gatekeeping] before children die because of it. ‘

‘When they eventually gave us temporary accommodation they moved us again after three days’

‘They asked me to do a DNA test to prove I was the mother of my children’

‘Do they think we’d pretend to be destitute in order to be treated like this? The reason we have to go to the council is because we have nowhere else to go’

On the role of the Home Office in Children’s Services

‘They are using social services to catch people.’

‘I was afraid they would deport me. They gave me removal papers and pressured me to sign them before I had even had a chance to read them’