‘Homelessness isn’t a crime’: Islington Council refuses to comply with government’s new immigration deportation rule

Cllr Diarmaid Ward. Picture: Islington Council

Cllr Diarmaid Ward. Picture: Islington Council - Credit: Cllr Diarmaid Ward

Islington Council has refused to collaborate with the government’s controversial move to make rough sleeping grounds for deportation.

Immigration officials have the power deport foreign nationals for sleeping on the street, even for just one night under new rules introduced on December 1.

This includes people legally living in the UK, who can have their right to stay in the UK refused or cancelled.

The council has branded the changes “unfair and discriminatory”, and has said it will continue to “do all we can to help and protect anyone sleeping rough in Islington”.

The council’s housing chief, Diarmaid Ward, told the Gazette: “You have very vulnerable people on the streets who have been through bad experiences, and they might have a distrust of authority.

“We work very hard with our partner organisations to build trust to get people into safe, secure accommodation and give them the support they need to move off the streets.

“The first bit of outreach might start with a chat and a cup of tea.

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“We’re not going to ruin that trust or jeopardise it by engaging with something where someone can be deported just for being homeless.

“Homelessness is not a crime, and should never be treated as such.”

A spokesperson for the council said the move is “likely to play into the hands of exploitative landlords and employers”.

“Islington Council will not collaborate with these rules, and will do all we can to protect anyone sleeping rough in our borough,” they said in a statement.

A government spokesperson said that enforcing the new regulations would be a “last resort measure”.

They said: “Initially individuals would be asked to leave voluntarily with government support.

“In the event that they refuse, we may take the step to remove them.

“For the small minority of migrant rough sleepers who continue to refuse government and local authority support and repeatedly engage in persistent anti-social behaviour, the new immigration reforms mean they could lose their right to be in the UK.”

Although the rules were laid on December 1, they will not be put into force until guidance on how the rule should be applied has been published.

The reforms do not apply to European Economic Area nationals who are within scope of the EU Settlement Scheme or who are otherwise protected by the withdrawal agreement.