Housing

We won't work with Home Office on 'cruel' deportation plans, councils warn

141 local authorities, lawyers and charities have written to the Home Secretary warning that new plans could have harsh consequences

A homeless man sits on the floor of a trin station, wrapped in blankets with a cup in front of them

Image credit: Getty images

Local councils have said they will not comply with “cruel” home office plans to deport migrants who are forced to sleep rough, warning the new policy will “play into the hands” of human traffickers. 

The Home Office now considers rough sleeping a basis for refusal or cancellation of permission to stay in the country.

The new rules came into force on December 1 and mean non-UK nationals could now face deportation, threatening migrants and asylum seekers who have no recourse to public funds and are legally unable to receive state support.

Over 100 councils, charities and lawyers have written to the Home Secretary Priti Patel warning the changes could have “severe” consequences for modern slavery victims and people who are homeless

The letter, first reported by The Independent, read: “In short, the rules punish rough sleeping ,force people into riskier and exploitative situations to avoid it and are likely to put victims in a revolving door of abuse and re-victimisation and at increased risk of detention and removal.

“We strongly urge that you revoke the rough sleeping rules to avoid aggravating the already precarious situation that many victims find themselves in and the potential negative impact on the current modern slavery strategy.”

Signatories of the letter include Anti-Slavery International, Crisis, and Homeless Link. 

The Home Office said the new policy would be used “sparingly” and “only where individuals refuse to engage with the range of support available and engage in persistent anti-social behaviour”. 

Labour-led local councils are, however, continuing to push back. Haringey Council in North London was among the local authorities saying it wouldn’t “collaborate” with the Home Office. 

Councillor Emine Ibrahim, Haringey Council’s cabinet member for housing and estate renewal, said: “We absolutely oppose the Home Office’s change to the immigration rules – we feel it’s discriminatory.

“Now more than ever it is vital that as leaders, and as communities, we do all we can in our power to protect the most vulnerable. If people are sleeping rough we should be offering help – not making people fear that they will be refused permission to stay in the country. 

“Many people sleeping rough have been exploited and faced unbelievable personal challenges. As a council we work tirelessly to help those sleeping rough get off the streets and to find safety and stability.” 

Councillor Helen Dennis, cabinet member for social support and homelessness at Southwark Council, has also voiced her opposition. She told The Big Issue it was “unsurprising” that half of the people counted as sleeping rough in the authority’s most recent annual count have no recourse to public funds. 

Councillor Dennis said: “It is inhumane and morally wrong to deport someone, simply for falling on hard times and losing their home. Most foreign nationals are here to work, quite legally, and we should be encouraging them to seek help and support, rather than pushing them away and increasing their vulnerability to modern slavery and other forms of exploitation.” 

Last week, lawyers launched a crowdfunding campaign to challenge the new plans in court. The Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) met its original £5,000 goal within 24 hours and has since raised almost £8,000. 

PILC successfully challenged the policy to deport rough sleepers in the high court in 2017, but it was announced the plans would be reintroduced

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The new rule provides a discretionary basis to cancel or refuse a person’s leave where they are found to be rough sleeping. The new provision will be used sparingly and only where individuals refuse to engage with the range of support available and engage in persistent anti-social behaviour. 

“We remain committed to ending rough sleeping for good and have been working hard to ensure the most vulnerable in our society have access to safe accommodation. This year alone, we have provided over £700 million in funding to support rough sleepers.

“The safety and security of modern slavery victims is also a top priority for this Government, and the Victim Care Contract provides support to potential and confirmed victims of modern slavery who consent to support, including accommodation.”

More than 1,000 Big Issue vendors are out of work because of the second lockdown in England. They can’t sell the magazine and they can’t rely on the income they need.

The Big Issue is helping our vendors with supermarket vouchers and gift payments but we need your help to do that.

Please consider buying this week’s magazine from the online shop or take out a subscription to make sure we can continue to support our vendors over this difficult period. You can even link your subscription to your local vendor with our new online map.

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Our right to housing is dependent on our immigration status – that's the definition of racism
Homelessness

Our right to housing is dependent on our immigration status – that's the definition of racism

Academics put trackers on homeless people – what they learned could be a 'game-changer'
A homeless person is interviewed on the streets of Sutton
Rough sleeping

Academics put trackers on homeless people – what they learned could be a 'game-changer'

Activist Kwajo Tweneboa: 'We're facing the biggest housing crisis since World War II'
Housing

Activist Kwajo Tweneboa: 'We're facing the biggest housing crisis since World War II'

Homeless people need more than sandwiches – they need and deserve to be seen as individuals
Homelessness

Homeless people need more than sandwiches – they need and deserve to be seen as individuals

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

The Big Issue

Sign up to get your FREE Doctor Who Archive Special

Celebrate the 14th series with your FREE edition of the Dr Who Special Archives