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Charities release joint statement condemning UK plans to remove rough sleepers

Policy came into effect last week following the publication of Home Office guidance

Plans that make rough sleeping grounds for cancelling someone’s right to remain in the UK are inhumane and could put people experiencing homelessness at greater risk, 60 expert organisations have warned. 

In a joint statement, the 60 homelessness and human rights organisations condemned UK Government plans to use rough sleeping as grounds for removing someone from the country, warning the policy makes non-UK nationals in vulnerable circumstances even more reluctant to accept help. 

The statement comes after repeated calls from homelessness charities, including Crisis, for the UK Government to scrap the plans and instead allow people experiencing homelessness to get the support they need without fear of removal. 

The charities said the policy puts people at risk of exploitative work and potentially modern slavery, to avoid sleeping rough and putting their immigration status at risk. 

With new guidance on the application of the rules released last week, the UK Government has stated that rough sleeping will only be used sparingly as grounds for denying or cancelling a non-UK national’s right to remain in the country, when someone has refused offers of support and is engaged in persistent anti-social behaviour or other criminal activity.  

But charities remain gravely concerned about the impact these rules will have, stating that the guidance “does nothing to put our fears to rest”. 

The UK Government previously targeted non-UK nationals for removal by immigration enforcement.  

In 2017, Home Office guidance designated it as an abuse of EU free movement rights. European nationals who had lived in the UK for years and were looking for work were deported, despite the guidance saying such action was disproportionate. It was ruled illegal by the High Court later that year but not before many had been wrongly detained and removed from the UK. 

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “Someone sleeping rough on the street needs help, but these changes just put them at greater risk. 

“We are deeply concerned that these new rules will push people away from seeking support, and into the hands of criminals seeking to exploit them. The guidance released by the Home Office over how they will be used does nothing to allay our fears. 

 “There have been huge strides made in tackling rough sleeping over the past year, with thousands of people moved from the streets and into safe, self-contained accommodation. These changes threaten to undermine that progress. 

 “Alongside colleagues from across the sector we are urging the UK Government to think again and make sure that everyone experiencing homelessness is treated with dignity and respect.” 


Notes to Editor

Joint statement – new Immigration Rules on rough sleeping

Changes to the Immigration Rules, published on 22 October 2020, made rough sleeping grounds for refusing or cancelling a person’s permission to remain in the UK. Last week, the UK Government published guidance confirming how these rules will now be applied.

The guidance does nothing to put our fears to rest.

We are gravely concerned about the impact of these changes. Everyone in our society should have a safe place to live and no one should be punished for experiencing homelessness.

This policy undermines this principle. It is inhumane and will make non-UK nationals in vulnerable circumstances fearful of asking for the support they need to get off the streets. It puts people at risk of exploitative work, accommodation, and potentially modern slavery, to avoid sleeping rough and putting themselves at threat of removal from the country.

We fear that victims of modern slavery in particular, (many of whom are recruited from, or end up on the streets), will fear that they will not be viewed as victims of crime, but instead as criminals. This will be used to deter anyone seeking help to break free of this crime.

We urge the UK Government to scrap these damaging new rules immediately to ensure everyone can access homelessness support without fear. We urge authorities to retain their focus on supporting people out of homelessness.

Governments across England, Scotland and Wales have shown they can take bold action to tackle homelessness. Building on this progress, we urgently need to see a clear, national strategy from the UK Government to end rough sleeping and homelessness for all.

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive, Crisis

Polly Neate CBE, Chief Executive, Shelter

Steve Douglas CBE, Chief Executive, St. Mungo’s

Rick Henderson, CEO, Homeless Link

Mick Clarke, CEO, The Passage

Sally Daghlian, CEO, Praxis

Gavin Smart, CEO, Chartered Institute of Housing 

Lucy Abraham, CEO, Glass Door Homeless Charity

Barbara Drozdowicz, CEO, East European Resource Centre

Mike Thiedke, CEO, Depaul UK

Sylvia Ingmire, CEO, Roma Support Group

David Ford, Founder and Chief Executive, Expert Link

Tim Sigsworth, Chief Executive, Albert Kennedy Trust

James Tullett, Chief Executive, Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London

Andrea Cleaver, Chief Executive, Welsh Refugee Council

Ewan Aitkens, CEO, Cyrenians

Charles Maasz, CEO, Glasgow City Mission

Annika Joy, Chief Executive, Destitute Asylum Seekers

Maggie Brunjes, CEO, Homeless Network Scotland

Lorraine McGrath, CEO, Simon Community Scotland

Alison Reid, CEO, Clan Childlaw

Duncan Cuthill, CEO, Edinburgh City Mission

Aaliyah Seyal, CEO, Legal Services Agency

Mark Goldring, Director, Asylum Welcome

Julian Prior, Chief Executive, Action Foundation

Jessica Hodge, CEO, Emmaus Bristol

Amanda Dubarry, Chief Executive, Caritas Anchor House

Amanda Croome, CEO, Booth Centre

Liz Rutherfoord, CEO, Single Homeless Project

Yvonne Hope, CEO, Barnabus Manchester

Dr Jan Sheldon, Chief Executive, St Martins

Jasmine O’Connor OBE, CEO, Anti-Slavery International

Pam Orchard, Chief Executive, The Connection at St Martin’s

Alex Bax, CEO, Pathway

Dr Nigel Hewett, Secretary to the Faculty for Homeless and Inclusion Health

Jackie Bliss, Chief Executive, HARP Southend

Carly Jones, Chief Executive, Sifa Fireside

Mike Barrett, Chief Executive, Porchlight

Dr. Dora-Olivia Vicol, CEO, Work Rights Centre

Kathy Mohan OBE, CEO, Housing Justice

Mark Grant, Chief Executive, Action Homeless

Simon Grainge, Chief Executive, Emmaus UK

Jane Cranston, Chair, Oxfordshire Homeless Movement

Jane Henson, Chair, Host Nottingham

Freek Spinnewijn, Director, FEANTSA

Ruth Moore, Director, St Wilfrid’s Centre

Fergal McCullough, Director, Manchester Men's Room

Heather Petch, Interim Director, NACCOM

Karen Pearse, Director, Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Alicja Zalesinska, Director, Tai Pawb

Katie Dalton, Director, Cymorth Cymru

Helen Hodgson, Operations Director, Hope at Home

Debbie Royle, Deputy Director, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum

Sam Grant, Head of Policy and Campaigns, Liberty

Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, Head of Policy and Profile, Law Centres Network

Eileen McMullan, Policy Lead, Scottish Federation of Housing Association

Sushila Dhall, Capacity Development Lead, Refugee Resource

Salma Ravat, Manager, One Roof Leicester

Maeve Larkin, Manager, Destitute Asylum Seekers Huddersfield

Jessica Brannan, Manager, Broxtowe Youth Homelessness

Laura McIvor, Project Support Coordinator, St Petrock’s (Exeter)

Jon Glackin, Coordinator, Streets Kitchen 

Rachel Hall, Deputy CEO, Falcon Support Services

Hendrix Lancaster, CEO, Coffee4Craig

Mark Wiggin, Director, Caritas Diocese of Salford

Unite Housing Workers branch

Lorrita Johnson, Director of Homelessness Services, The Salvation Army

Ann Little, Head of Business Development, Evolve Housing