Housing

Campaigners ‘forced Home Office to change plans to deport rough sleepers’

No rough sleepers have been deported following legal challenge to Home Office rules which threatened to remove foreign nationals from the UK just for being street homeless

rough sleepers faced deportation over Home Office immigration rules

The Home Office rule change was criticised for the potential to push rough sleepers away from support services for fear of being deported. Image: Steve Bowbrick / Flickr

Home Office plans to deport migrants who are forced to sleep rough have been foiled by a legal challenge, campaigners have claimed.

The Westminster government changed immigration rules in December 2020 enabling the cancellation of permission to stay in the UK on the grounds a non-UK national was sleeping rough in the UK. The Home Office said at the time the rule was a “last resort”.

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (Ramfel) and Public Interest Law Centre (Pilc) launched a legal challenge in response. Now the campaigners have insisted their intervention has seen the rule “watered down” to such a degree that it is yet to be used after more than two years of being in force.

Nick Beales, head of campaigning at Ramfel, said: “The government’s plan to cancel people’s leave to remain in the UK for the crime of falling on hard times and rough sleeping was always cruel, but also patently self-defeating.

“If people who are rough sleeping know that engaging with the authorities risks enforcement action and potential separation from loved ones, it strongly disincentivises them from seeking help. The government though ignored warnings to this effect and instead dogmatically pressed ahead.

“This rule was watered down to essentially become meaningless, but only after Ramfel and Pilc initiated legal action.”

The Home Office move caused uproar in 2020 with homelessness and migrants charities warning the move could see rough sleepers disengage with support services due to the fear of deportation. Some local authorities, including the Greater London Authority, said they would not comply.

Ramfel and Pilc raised £21,000 to launch a legal challenge.

The groups are now claiming success after their intervention saw the rule “watered down” in April 2021 meaning a person must “repeatedly refuse suitable offers of support and engage in persistent anti-social behaviour” before they can be deported.

The changes mean the rule has not been used once in the two years since, the campaigners discovered after the High Court refused a second judicial review into the rule.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “All applications for permission to stay are decided on a case by case basis. An individual sleeping rough may have their permission to stay refused where offers of support are declined or they engage in persistent anti-social behaviour.”

Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription

However, campaigners have warned that while the rule remains in operation it still poses a risk to migrants as part of the government’s drive against immigration.

Ramfel’s Beales said the government’s policy of sending migrants to Rwanda or the Illegal Migration Bill, which has faced multiple defeats in the House of Lords, means rough sleepers could face being ejected from the UK in future.

He added: “It is another example of the government prioritising headline-grabbing cruelty over fair, sensible and workable immigration policies.”

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Rents in UK are rising at highest rate in decades. Will they keep going up?
rents uk
Renting

Rents in UK are rising at highest rate in decades. Will they keep going up?

Scotland needs real-time rough sleeping count to save lives
rough sleeping and temporary accommodation in Scotland is under the spotlight on Buchanan Street in Glasgow
homelessness

Scotland needs real-time rough sleeping count to save lives

'More bad news for renters': Rental crisis continues with steep rent rises despite inflation falling
inflation is falling but rents are still rising at a faster rate than wages
RENTING

'More bad news for renters': Rental crisis continues with steep rent rises despite inflation falling

Labour promises wave of new towns if elected. But will they make a dent in UK's housing crisis?
Angela Rayner announces Labour new town plan
Housing

Labour promises wave of new towns if elected. But will they make a dent in UK's housing crisis?

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know