Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 30 November 2020

Backlash against Britain’s ‘unlawful’ plan to deport foreigners sleeping on the streets

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan urges government to scrap ‘deeply immoral’ measures

The Home Office announced last month that rough sleeping would become grounds to cancel or refuse a person’s right to be in the UK under new immigration rules, which come into effect on December 1. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
The Home Office announced last month that rough sleeping would become grounds to cancel or refuse a person’s right to be in the UK under new immigration rules, which come into effect on December 1. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

The British government’s plan to deport foreign citizens sleeping on UK streets is unlawful, legal campaigners said.

The Home Office announced last month that rough sleeping would become grounds to cancel or refuse a person’s right to be in the UK under new immigration rules, which come into effect on December 1. The move drew criticism from human rights groups, charities and opposition MPs.

Such a scenario could mean a foreign citizen who was working in the UK but lost his or her job because of the coronavirus pandemic and was made temporarily homeless, could now be deported.

The Good Law Project, a not-for-profit organisation that uses the law to protect public interests, has convened a group of six law centres that help the homeless. These law centres together sent a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel, warning her about the measures.

The letter gave real-life examples of those who might be affected by the new rules. Among them was a foreign citizen who had worked in a pub and had accommodation tied to that position, only to lose the job in the pandemic and end up being forced to sleep on the street.

One woman had to flee her flat because of domestic violence and was made temporarily homeless. Another woman was abroad but returned to the UK after threats of violence in her home country from terrorist group Boko Haram and was unlawfully refused temporary accommodation from the government, meaning she had to sleep rough for more than a week.

Gemma Abbott, legal director of the Good Law Project, said the measures would make people less likely to seek help to get off the street.

“As we enter the second wave of this deadly pandemic, it is completely inhumane and in our view unlawful to cut vulnerable people off from support,” she said.

The Home Office said that removing people from the streets would be “a last-resort measure”.

“For the small minority of EEA [European Economic Area] migrant rough sleepers who continue to refuse government and local authority support and repeatedly engage in persistent antisocial behaviour, the new immigration reforms mean they could lose their right to be in the UK,” the Home Office said.

“This would be a last-resort measure, and initially individuals would be asked to leave voluntarily with government support. In the event that they refuse, we may take the step to remove them.”

Last week, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan wrote a letter with local authority leaders urging ministers to scrap the “deeply immoral” plans.

Updated: November 12, 2020 06:38 PM

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