Scottish Government condemns new Home Office plans to deport foreign rough sleepers post-Brexit
The Scottish Government has condemned new Home Office plans to deport foreign rough sleepers after Brexit, with communities secretary Aileen Campbell describing the move as an “inhumane policy devoid of compassion and fairness”.
The new change, which will be made in the form of a statutory instrument rather than through primary legislation, is expected to come into effect from 1 January, allowing the Home Office to use rough sleeping as grounds for refusing or cancelling the leave of non-UK nationals.
Around a quarter of rough sleepers in the UK are thought to be foreign nationals, with many unable to access mainstream support because they have no recourse to public funds, while homelessness charities have warned it will make people who are sleeping rough less willing to engage with support services.
In 2017 a change in Home Office policy meant that someone from the European Economic Area 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, which found the Home Office’s position to be contrary to EU law, leaving EEA nationals detained under the policy potentially entitled to compensation.
Announcing the change, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “For too long EU rules have forced us to allow dangerous foreign criminals, who abuse our values and threaten our way of life, on to our streets. The UK will be safer thanks to firmer and fairer border controls where foreign criminals regardless of nationality will be subject to the same criminality rules.”
But while the Home Office said the new rules would be used sparingly, the change has come under fire from both homelessness charities and the Scottish Government.
Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell said: “Despite a commitment from the Home Secretary to follow through on the recommendations from the Windrush Lessons Learned review, the decision to remove non-UK nationals for simply for rough sleeping is another inhumane policy devoid of compassion and fairness.
"This backwards step is punishing people who are here lawfully in the UK but often experience homelessness as a direct result of the UK Government hostile environment policies.
"Criminalising people for rough sleeping is short sighted given the current economic recession and public health impacts arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and will discourage vulnerable individuals from seeking help and support.”
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “This new policy from the government is unacceptable and cruel. It will push people who are in the UK legally and facing homelessness further into the fringes of society, rather than encouraging them to seek support.
“While the government has stressed that this policy will only be used sparingly for people who refuse support, it is not as clear cut as this. We know through our services that people who have no recourse to public funds because of their immigration status have little or no access to support in the first place, and are forced into rough sleeping if they are unable to work. This is a situation that will only worsen as the economic impact of the pandemic begins to bite.
“Ending rough sleeping for non-UK nationals is always going to come down to providing housing and the right support to people facing homelessness, rather than threatening deportation. The government has made a commitment to end rough sleeping by the end of this parliament, but policies like this are not the way to do it and undermine the effective support they offered earlier in the year as part of ‘Everyone In’.
“We await to see further details on the policy and what this means for people.”