Rough Sleeping Is Not A Crime

May 1, 2017

Over the last few months, the police and Home Office have been systematically arresting, detaining and deporting European Economic Area (EEA) national rough sleepers. 

In May last year, the Government adopted the legally dubious position that rough-sleeping is an “abuse” of EU Citizens’ right to freedom of movement”.  The “abuse of right” law is intended to allow the deportation of EU citizens convicted of crimes, but the Government is using it to crack down on migrant rough sleepers who’ve committed no crime.

Cash-strapped local councils are being bribed to support these actions through access to a new pot of money – the Controlling Migration Fund – available to councils that identify rough sleepers to the Home Office or bully homeless migrants into returning home voluntarily. Over half of the rough-sleepers in London are migrants.  This is largely because of unfair laws that restrict migrants’ ability to claim benefits.  As such, people who have lived, worked and paid tax in the UK for years can find themselves homeless with no safety net.

Even when councils have a legal duty to house migrants (such as when they have children), they do all they can to wriggle out of it – in one case claiming that a mother and her children had a “network” they could rely on because she was staying with a stranger she’d met at the bus stop. 

They end up in a Catch-22 situation – unable to pay their rent, but being faced with arrest and deportation if sleeping rough.

Needless to say, Haringey Council enthusiastically got on board with this disgusting policy.  Already, 22 people have been arrested and detained in a series of operations across the borough. 

Even more shamefully, homeless charities such as St Mungo’s, have been implicated in reporting rough sleepers to Immigration Enforcement.  Many of the rough-sleepers deported to Eastern Europe do not have anywhere to go and end up sleeping rough with even less support than they receive in the UK. 

Rough sleepers are among the most vulnerable people in our society.  Many have mental health problems, or issues with substance abuse.  Many are at risk of violence.  People who are homeless should be helped and supported, not criminalised, detained, or served with removal papers. 

The government and local council want to hide the social damage of their failed housing policies, by sweeping rough-sleepers under the carpet (or, more accurately, into detention centres). 

North East London Migrant Action (NELMA) are running a campaign to defend homeless migrants against this state violence.  For more information.

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