With the Brexit transition phase ending on 31 December, the UK is planning to bring in new immigration laws that could put hundreds of foreign rough sleepers at risk of deportation, it has been reported.
The new immigration rules, which are yet to be presented before parliament, may add rough sleeping as a grounds for refusal or cancellation of a foreign national’s permission to be in the UK. The new rules could be in place as soon as 1 January 2021, according to the Guardian.
More than a quarter of rough sleepers in the UK are thought to be foreign nationals. In 2019 officials figures showed that 22 per cent were from the EU while 4 per cent were non-EU nationals. Within London, this rose to 42 per cent and 7 per cent respectively.
The new policy is receiving strong opposition from charities who characterise it as anti-poor and divisive.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, told the Guardian: “If true, this appears to be a huge step backwards from a government that says it wants to end rough sleeping. Seeking to deport people for the sole reason that they are homeless will undoubtedly mean fewer people coming forward for help.
“Rough sleepers, no matter where they are from, are a symptom of a home-grown housing emergency. This emergency has been caused by the failure of successive governments to build the social homes we need. Investment in social housing will solve this emergency – not punishing people for being homeless,” she said.
The Independent reported last year how a no-deal Brexit could leave rough sleepers vulnerable to deportation. Rough sleepers have been told they must apply for settlement to retain their UK immigration status after Britain leaves the EU. But a significant number of homeless European nationals have “very little knowledge” of the EU Settlement Scheme, according to research by the charity Crisis.
The latest reported plans from the Home Office come amid a range of post-Brexit changes the UK is planning to make that include stricter laws for immigration on all foreign nationals, including those from the EU. The country has already announced a points-based immigration system which the Home Office said was to “prevent the system being abused”.
The home secretary, Priti Patel, speaking about the wider changes to immigration laws earlier said: “For too long EU rules have forced us to allow dangerous foreign criminals, who abuse our values and threaten our way of life, on to our streets. The UK will be safer thanks to firmer and fairer border controls where foreign criminals regardless of nationality will be subject to the same criminality rules.”