Exclusive: Home Office arrested and deported dozens of Europeans for sleeping rough in Scotland last year
The Home Office arrested and removed 26 European nationals from Scotland for sleeping rough on the streets in a move now deemed unlawful, Freedom of Information requests have revealed.
From February 2017 a change in Home Office policy meant that someone from the European Economic Area (EEA) found rough sleeping would, under certain circumstances, be considered to be in breach of their treaty rights and would be liable to be arrested and removed from the UK.
But the policy was then ruled unlawful by the High Court in December last year, which found the Home Office’s position to be contrary to EU law, leaving EEA nationals detained under the policy potentially entitled to compensation.
While the Home Office was unable to provide a breakdown of the anticipated cost of compensation to those arrested for rough sleeping in Scotland, Freedom of Information requests from Holyrood show that, of the 32 people arrested for rough sleeping between the introduction of the policy and the High Court’s intervention, 26 were deported from the UK.
The Home Office told Holyrood that it ceased all operations against rough sleeping EEA citizens after the High Court ruling on 14 December 2017.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “No one should ever have to sleep rough, and this government is determined to break the homelessness cycle.
“Local projects across the country are working with foreign national rough sleepers helping them find employment and accommodation or return home where appropriate.
"We have ceased all relevant investigation and action on the immigration status of EEA citizens because of rough sleeping. Complaints or claims for compensation will be considered on a case by case basis.”
But opposition parties rounded on the UK Government’s approach to immigration.
SNP MSP Sandra White said: “These figures are the latest example of how self-defeating the Tories' hostile environment policy is - and why we urgently need powers over migration to come to Holyrood.
“That the first response of this toxic Tory government is to deport vulnerable people rather than support them, no matter the legality of that policy, tells you all you need to know – though we shouldn't be surprised given their scandalous treatment of Windrush generation.
“The sooner Scotland is able to control our own migration policy, the better.”
Scottish Labour MP for Glasgow North East Paul Sweeney said: “There appears to be no depths which the Home Office is not prepared to plumb in pursuit of its hostile environment policy.
“Instead of tackling the scourge of homelessness, which has only spiked after Tory cuts to social security, these vulnerable people were treated as an easy target.
“The Government shouldn't have needed the opinion of an EU lawyer to tell them that their approach was unacceptable. The taxpayer will now foot the bill for the toxic Tories' nasty policy.
“I wonder how this squares with Ruth Davidson's claim that her Scottish Tories are 'compassionate Conservatives'? There is clearly no compassion here. And where is the conservatism in squandering public money in pursuit of political dogma?”