Islington Council won’t be sharing rough sleepers’ personal data through Home Office ‘hostile environment’ policy

A bedroom set up in Stroud Green Road. Picture: Loretta Thomas

A bedroom set up in Stroud Green Road. Picture: Loretta Thomas - Credit: Archant

Islington Council will not be sharing personal data of rough sleepers with the Home Office – and has asked its partners not to participate in the latest “hostile environment” policy either.

Housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward has issued a statement in response to reports about a new scheme using charities to acquire sensitive data that could lead to deportation of non-UK rough sleepers.

He said: "Rough sleeping is a complex issue, and the council's priority will always be getting people into safe, secure accommodation and giving them the support they need to move off the streets.

"We work with a number of partners and specialist agencies to offer a range of tailored support to anyone rough sleeping in Islington, including St Mungo's, Thamesreach, the Single Homelessness Project, the Pillion Trust, CARIS Islington and Streets Kitchen.

"The work we do is based on trust. Its success depends on our ability to gain, nurture and maintain the trust of the rough sleepers we work with, who are often extremely vulnerable, hesitant to seek help, and sometimes traumatised.

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"Islington will not be cooperating with the Home Office enforcement teams in sharing the personal data of rough sleepers. We also ask our partner agencies not to do so, and we have been unequivocal in our opposition to this practice."

In the last two years the council has helped move 38 rough sleepers off the street, many of whom were camped under the bridge in Stroud Green Road.

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As of November, when the official snapshot count was done, there were 43 rough sleepers in the borough.

Streets Kitchen founder Jon Glackin has praised Islington Council for its proactive approach to tackling rough sleeping.

But he says many rough sleepers are reluctant to cooperate with big homeless charities, after some were exposed for referring people to Immigration Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) in 2017.

Between 2015 and 2017 ICE deported 1,351 rough sleeping EU citizens from the UK on the grounds they were violating freedom of movement rights. Freedom of Information figures obtained by this paper show only 4 of these were from Islington.

The High Court ruled the "removals" unlawful in December 2017, and the Home Office said it had "ceased all relevant investigation and action on the immigration status of EEA citizens because of rough sleeping". But Sunday's report in The Observer suggests the new trial is similar.

Cllr Ward said the council did help people return to their home countries, where in "most cases a greater range of support is available".

But he added Home Office referrals would only take place after the person has received legal advice and given consent.

He said: "We have full confidence in the professionalism, expertise, and dedication of our outreach teams, and we will not compromise the success of their work by encouraging them to participate in the hostile environment."

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