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