Looks like the government's going to have to come up with a better way of dealing with homelessness than frogmarching migrants back to where they came from. As homelessness rockets, one of the government’s responses has been to kick foreign rough sleepers out of the country – including European nationals. The government’s operations against homeless migrants from the European Economic Area have resulted in hundreds of deportations since 2015, but the send-em-packing agenda was slapped down by Judge Lang in the High Court on Thursday.
The legal challenge was brought on behalf of two Polish men and a Latvian. Mariusz Perliński and Mariusz Cielecki from Poland, and Gunars Gureckis from Latvia, had faced deportation for sleeping rough. If you become homeless as a migrant the Home Office deems it an "abuse" of your right to free movement, like faking documents or having a passport wedding. If you’re abusing that right, the government has grounds to deport you. But, the court decided, this is contrary to EU law.
A spokesperson for North East London Migrant Action (NELMA) – which bought the action, along with the Public Interest Law Unit (PILU) – said, "The numbers of European nationals sleeping rough have been steadily increasing since 2010. But rather than making substantial or systematic attempts to provide solutions to homelessness through accommodation and employment support, local and national authorities have opted to add enforcement measures to austerity policies.
"We hope this decision will put an end to a social policy which used imprisonment and deportation as solutions to eradicate homelessness."
The government claimed that people were coming to the UK specifically to sleep rough. A NELMA spokesperson said, "In reality, many homeless people targeted by the Home Office have fallen on hard times and are working but unable to afford accommodation."
People who have been detained under the scheme may now be entitled to compensation from the Home Office – something which will presumably give Richard Littlejohn a heart attack if it ever happens.
The judgement contains numerous references to the Home Office coordinating its efforts with charities and outreach workers. One of the claimants, Gunars Gureckis, "was found sleeping rough by Home Office Immigration, Compliance and Enforcement ('ICE') officers who were deployed on a joint operation with police and outreach workers targeting EEA rough sleepers". This landed Gurekis with a notice telling him that he was abusing his right to stay in the country.
In March, Corporate Watch revealed how big homelessness charities had become implicated in the Home Office’s attempts to deport people. Charities were involved in creating policies that ensured greater collaboration with the Home Office, and charity workers trying to help the homeless have been deployed alongside Home Office goons intent on starting the process of dragooning them out of the country.
Now that the Home Office’s policy has been deemed illegal, charities might want to have another think about whether closely working with them is the most charitable thing to do. The government, meanwhile, will have to come up with another way of dealing with homelessness other than kicking European migrants who fall on hard times out of the country.