A migrant rough sleeper is facing eviction from emergency hotel accommodation by a London council because he refuses to return to his home country.
A letter from Westminster council to the individual states that following assessments by the homeless charity the Connection at St Martin’s, the council was unable “to identify a service offer that will resolve your rough sleeping in the UK”.
“What we would be able to offer is to support you to explore an international reconnection. This will include organising the travel and helping you to identify and access accommodation and support you may be entitled to in your destination country,” the letter added.
Fears have been mounting that migrant rough sleepers will be forcibly removed from the UK after the Home Office introduced a new policy last December which allows the deportation of this group.
A previous policy in which the Home Office worked with certain charities to identify migrant rough sleepers from European Economic Area countries who were subsequently removed from the UK was ruled unlawful by the high court in December 2017.
Many rough sleepers including migrants have been given accommodation during the pandemic but as restrictions ease some rough sleepers are having their accommodation terminated. Westminster council has the largest number of rough sleepers in England, with an estimated one in 13 located there.
It is not known whether this case will now be passed on to the Home Office for an enforced removal from the UK.
The Connection at St Martin’s said it had not signed off the letter and opposed the policy of forced removal of rough sleepers as a signatory to the Support Don’t Deport campaign for migrant rough sleepers.
A spokesperson for Westminster council said: “Westminster council spends more than £10m per year on supporting rough sleepers, more than any other local authority in the UK. Our outreach teams and our many valued partners work extremely hard to offer support and protection for rough sleepers across the city.”
The spokesperson added that to date two migrant rough sleepers had been sent these letters. However, campaigners fear that as pandemic restrictions ease many more migrant rough sleepers will face similar pressure to leave the UK.
A spokesperson for the Connection at St Martin’s said the charity worked with hundreds of people who are rough sleeping to move away from, and stay off, the streets of London. “We have taken up our concerns about the letter with the local authority as it does not represent our involvement in the case, and we do not agree with the decision to evict clients from hotels.”
Benjamin Morgan of the Public Interest Law Centre said: “Migrant homelessness is above all the result of exclusionary immigration and welfare policies that make life next to impossible for many non-UK nationals living in this country.
“After Brexit it is more important than ever for councils to push back against the government’s hostile agenda by guaranteeing the social right to shelter regardless of immigration status. Nobody should be told: ‘Go home or we’ll put you out on the streets.’”
A government spokesperson said: “We have been clear the law on eligibility relating to immigration status has not changed and we expect councils to exhaust all options to support all those unable to access homelessness assistance as a result of their status.
“Simply sleeping rough is not grounds for removal. The immigration rule will only to be used as a last resort.”
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