UKREN blog

Friday 10 March 2017

New lows in the 'hostile environment': charities round up EU national rough sleepers


Exposures on behalf of Corporate Watch this week have revealed the government’s “hostile environment” policy is penetrating public institutions at a rate that is no means short of terrifying. The extent of the ruthlessness of the Home Office’s ICE (Immigration Compliance and Enforcement) operation has already been exposed by campaigns such as Docs Not Cops and Schools ABC, as immigration authorities move into hospitals and schools. But Wednesday’s Corporate Watch Report which revealed a new, dangerous and frightening low in Theresa May’s hostile Britain.  However this Wednesday freedom of information request revealed that homelessness charities St Mungos, Thames Reach, Crisis and Change, Grow Live amongst local councils are commissioned by Home Office to deport vulnerable migrants.

Corporate Watch’s “Round Up” report revealed that the named charities conducted 141 joint patrols together last year alone which resulted in 133 rough sleepers being detained, whilst 127 people were deported in under a year from Westminster alone. The GLA have contracted St Mungo’s and Thames Reach under “payment by numbers” schemes where fees depend on how many homeless clients they get out of the country.

To tackle any misconceptions; this policy is targeted specifically at EU at EEA nationals as they make up over half of London’s rough sleepers. Migrants from Romania, Poland, and other East European countries are particularly affected. Many of whom have paid taxes, had jobs and lost their homes through increasingly harsh welfare cuts. Since November 2015 the Home Office has officially considered rough sleeping as an “abuse” of the EU Treaty right to freedom of movement. Thus homeless EU nationals in the UK are liable to be given removal papers, or be detained or deported.  

The Chief Executive of St Mungo’s Howard St Clair justified the position by arguing that returning rough sleepers back to their country of origin is in their interest if they have family or friends at home. The assumption of safety upon return was swiftly shot down by figures showing that in Bucharest, the capital of Romania where many rough sleepers are being sent back to, 300 rough sleepers die to freezing conditions.

The explicit outcome of the hostile environment policy was to make the UK so difficult to survive in that migrants would be put off coming altogether. Yet the unintended consequence is a society where migrant or non-migrant, we are beginning to question the trust of each other. The total violation of our public institutions by ICE which is seeing children questioned in schools without consent, NHS doctors discriminating patients depending on country of birth, and landlords demanding papers previously only requested by immigration border control guards are making modern Britain feel increasingly like an Orwellian dystopia.

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