Hackney campaigners welcome High Court ruling ending deportation of EU rough sleepers

Homelessness in Hackney Pic: Isabel Togoh

Hackney migrant pressure group has welcomed the High Court’s ruling that the Home Office’s controversial policy of detaining and deporting EU rough sleepers is unlawful.

The Hackney-based North East London Migrant Action campaign group brought the legal challenge to the Government alongside the Public Interest Law Unit, a project specialising in human rights and public law by the Lambeth Law Centre.

Mrs Justice Lang dismissed both the policy as well as the Home Office’s ongoing operations because of its discriminatory nature against European Economic Area nationals.

The decision marks an important moment in NELMA’s campaign against the Home Office and its collaborators.

PILU said: “We are delighted that the court has been willing to protect the rights of a vulnerable group of workers who have been stigmatised both by the authorities and by sections of the media.”

Jean Demars (NELMA), Paul Heron (PILU), Helen Streatfeild-Mowatt (PILU), Angus King (PILU) and Natalie Csengeri, barrister Pic: Camille Mijola

The claimants at the centre of the action were detained in different areas of London because the Home Office interpreted rough sleeping as an “abuse” of the thier freedom of movement rights.

The Home Office used this interpretation to enforce the systemic detention and deportation of any EU migrant found rough sleeping. Last September, the Independent revealed the number of EU mobile citizens being removed from the UK had increased fivefold since 2010 and had been particularly intesifying in the previous year.

This report followed revelations earlier this year that Thames Reach and St Mungo’s – two publicly commissioned charities delivering street outreach services – were found to be sharing intelligence, including the exact location of EU rough sleepers, to the Home Office.

The pressure group said: “This resulted in hundreds of people being detained and deported since November 2015. They created an effective machine for deportation.”

They have also been campaigning against this collaboration between charities and the Home Office and hopes that “that St Mungo’s, Thames Reach and CGL will review their participation in the policing –  lawful or unlawful – of the people they are meant to support.”

Although it is now illegal to detain any EU rough sleeper, the vast majority of them have no way of knowing their new rights not to be detained.

However, according to NELMA, those who have been detained under the scheme may now be entitled to make a claim for compensation against the Home Office.

This is not the only challenge to the now-unlawful practice. Earlier this year, FEANTSA– a Pan-European ONG advocating for homeless rights – made a complaint against the United Kingdom before the European Commission.

Mauro Striano, a FEANTSA representative and witness in the court case, told ELL: “The UK was the only country in Europe which to introduce an explicit policy that gives national authorities the power to potentially expel EU nationals for the only reason that they are homeless, regardless of their economic status.”



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