PILC has today published a know-your rights guide to deportations, international ‘reconnections’ and voluntary returns for homeless non UK-nationals and those supporting them.
Non-UK nationals are at increased risk of homelessness, including rough sleeping. Some may think they have no option to leave the UK—even if they want to stay. In the past, some councils and charities worked with the Home Office to force or persuade homeless people to leave the UK.
Our new guide is intended to help homeless non-UK nationals assert their right to remain.
The guide is available online, with versions in English, Polish and Romanian. We also have a limited number of printed copies to give away to organisations and groups supporting homeless non-UK nationals.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to request hard copies of the guide.
Tonight sees the launch of our new report and campaign around the systemic ‘gatekeeping’ by local authorities of housing support for domestic abuse survivors.
Housing is one of the major barriers facing women and girls fleeing abuse. Most domestic abuse survivors have the legal right to access emergency housing and longer-term safe and secure accommodation.
Yet systemic ‘gatekeeping’ (the placing of bureaucratic or other obstacles in the way of those seeking statutory support) across local councils means many survivors are unable to access the help they so desperately need.
Our report, authored by PILC’s Isabella Mulholland, is based on original research, including casework and litigation undertaken by the law centre over the past three years, as well as witness testimonies from survivors and frontline domestic violence advocates across all thirty-two London boroughs.
PILC has written a legal submission to Simon Clark MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Levelling Up, and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, highlighting the findings of the research.
The letter calls on the Secretary of State and the Mayor to commission an independent investigation into local authorities’ widespread failure to provide housing support to domestic abuse survivors.
As our research shows, the systemic ‘gatekeeping’ of housing support for victims of domestic abuse is placing survivors at risk of further abuse and retraumatisation.
Key findings from our report include the following:
The ‘gatekeeping’ of housing support for domestic abuse survivors is a systemic issue across London local authorities
‘Gatekeeping’ by councils takes a variety of forms, including: long (and sometimes unlawful) delays in making decisions around housing for survivors; unsuitable offers of temporary and long-term accommodation; the failure to provide emergency accommodation to survivors and their children; the imposition of unlawfully high evidence thresholds before support is provided; failure to apply the statutory definition of domestic abuse; the application of value judgements by housing officers; survivors being wrongly instructed to stay in or leave their borough; and the refusal of support until there is a threat of legal action
Council ‘gatekeeping’ is having a serious impact on survivors, with some being forced to remain in properties where they are at risk or having no option but to return to the perpetrator of domestic abuse
‘Gatekeeping’ across London local authorities has worsened over the last decade as a consequence of austerity and a chronic shortage of social housing
The report’s areas of focus are access to justice, Home Office applications, state support, healthcare, and the asylum accommodation system, as well as immigration enforcement. Across all these areas, we highlight how the government’s anti-migrant approach has exposed migrants to increased risk from Covid-19, undermined public health efforts and introduced greater dysfunctionality into an already-broken immigration system.
The report’s authors, Ellen Fotheringham and Caitlin Boswell, urge the prime minister to ensure that the Covid-19 Inquiry examines how flaws in the immigration system have put migrants’ lives at risk during the pandemic.
On Thursday 5th May we are in court for the hearing in our client’s judicial review challenge to Southwark council’s housing allocations policy.
Our client, Milton, lives with his wife, son and daughter in a privately rented studio apartment in Southwark. They are severely overcrowded and have endured extremely cramped housing conditions for almost five years. The family applied to join Southwark’s housing register in April 2018. However, Southwark has refused to prioritise the family’s application for housing. The council claims that the family’s overcrowding is the result of a ‘deliberate act’.
However, Milton and his family had no choice but to move into their current accommodation. As Milton explains with the help of his daughter Rebecca: ‘I had to move to this flat. When we looked at other places the agencies asked us for many months’ rent in advance. I couldn’t rent a bigger house because it was too expensive.’
As Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) have highlighted this week, Southwark council have spent a large amount of money and resources defending this case – money that could have been spent on tackling exploitative landlords and supporting Southwark residents. HASL are running an email campaign demanding that Southwark remove the ‘deliberate act’ provision and stop blaming families for their poor living conditions.
We will provide a legal update on the outcome of this case over the next few weeks.
Today and tomorrow we are in the High Court for a two-day hearing on a judicial-review challenge to the Education (Student Support) Regulations 2011. The case raises the question of the right to state support that accompanies the right of residence derivative of the exercise of freedom of movement rights by a British citizen and their family.
Our client is a Zimbabwean national married to a British citizen. She was refused maintenance support for her degree studies because of her immigration status.
At the time she was refused maintenance support our client was exercising Surinder Singh rights. These rights allow a British citizen who has lived in an European Economic Area (EEA) country exercising EEA rights of residence to bring qualifying family members back to the UK to live here.
Student maintenance support is generally available to the family members of EEA nationals who have exercised free movement rights. However, the Student Loan Company refused to award our client maintenance support for her degree because her husband is a British citizen. This happened because the definition of an EEA migrant worker in the relevant regulations excluded EEA nationals who were British citizens.
Being refused a maintenance loan has caused our client and her family considerable stress and financial hardship. She is arguing that the regulations that excluded her are a breach of her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and contrary to the principle of equal treatment and non-discrimination in EU Law.
On Jul 1 2021 PILC published a research report on the key rights and social-justice issues faced by homeless and otherwise marginalised EU citizens living in the UK. The report, entitled Still Here: Defending the rights of homeless EU citizens after Brexit and Covid-19, is based on research, casework and litigation undertaken through our EU homeless rights project (2018-21).
Our report finds that EU citizens living in the UK experienced large-scale destitution and rights violations well before Brexit. Homeless EU citizens were especially at risk of not having their rights upheld by statutory agencies, while the legal exclusion or ‘differential inclusion’ of EU citizens with respect to social assistance was a major cause of destitution, including rough sleeping.
We identify three overlapping groups of EU citizens who were particularly exposed to poverty, hyper exploitation and rights violations before Brexit : working-class EU citizens from the ‘A8’ and ‘A2’ countries of Central and Eastern Europe; EU citizens or qualifying non-EU family members who may identify or be racialised as non-white; and survivors of domestic abuse.
Our advocacy report proceeds via an analysis of six key rights areas (access to housing; support for domestic-abuse survivors; access to welfare benefits; employment rights; access to NHS care; and access to community care), illustrated with examples from PILC’s casework and litigation.
We then discuss issues relating to EU citizens’ right to remain after Brexit, showing that the UK’s departure from the EU is likely to exacerbate the rights issues faced by marginalised Europeans. This section of our report looks at current and historic policies aimed at deporting homeless EU citizens and the shortcomings of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). We also analyse the experiences of destitute EU citizens during Covid-19, an issue first covered in detail in a 2020 report co-authored by PILC.
The final section of the report examines the homelessness sector’s work with EU citizens. We argue that the sector in the shape of local authorities and commissioned services is failing marginalised Europeans, and non-UK nationals more broadly. We suggest that a culture change is urgently needed, and that the sector must assert the right to shelter, welfare assistance and to remain of all EU citizens in the UK.
On 1 December 2020 the government amended the Immigration Rules to make rough sleeping a ground for cancelling or refusing permission to stay in the UK.
On 2 December 2020 PILC, instructed by the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL), formally wrote to the Secretary of State for the Home Department (SSHD) to request that the new rough sleeping rule be repealed. We argued that the rule was unlawful, disproportionate, discriminatory and violated the UK’s international obligations in respect of victims of trafficking. PILC also sent the SSHD a detailed report evidencing the potential effect of the new rule on non-UK nationals sleeping rough.
On 6 April 2021 the rough sleeping rule was amended so that permission may only be refused or cancelled where a rough sleeper has also:
repeatedly refused suitable offers of support; and
engaged in persistent anti-social behaviour (ASB)
On 20 April 2021 the Home Office published guidance on the interpretation of the rough sleeping rule. This guidance significantly limits the scope of the rule.
In light of the recent changes to the rough sleeping rule, we have updated our factsheet for homeless non-UK nationals and those supporting them.
What does this mean for PILC’s legal challenge?
Although the latest guidance appears to have significantly limited the scope of the rough sleeping rule, a number of concerns remain:
The rule may result in people who find it hard to engage with services as a result of mental health difficulties, lack of mental capacity or substance-misuse issues being targeted for immigration enforcement. The behaviour of such individuals may be interpreted as ‘anti-social behaviour’.
The rule presents a significant risk to Roma people whose needs have historically not been met by support services and who have been disproportionately targeted for local-authority and immigration enforcement in recent years.
The ‘available support’ listed in the Home Office guidance is largely applicable to non-UK nationals with recourse to public funds. Little effective support to leave the streets is available to the group most likely to be affected by the rule: non-UK national rough sleepers with no recourse to public funds (NRPF).
We are concerned that the rule may be used coercively, with rough sleepers being offered ‘voluntary’ return and threatened with deportation if they refuse. It remains unclear who will decide whether ‘voluntary return’ is a ‘suitable’ support option. Although the Home Office guidance suggests ‘voluntary return’ as an option for those ‘who want to go home’, ‘voluntary return’ (or ‘reconnection’) has historically been offered to rough sleepers as a ‘single service offer’.
Anti-social behaviour powers raise significant issues around proportionality, due process and accountability. Rough sleepers are commonly targeted by ASB enforcement measures—often just for rough sleeping. The evidence threshold for the issuing of Community Protection Notices (CPNs) is significantly lower than for older ASB orders.
The rough sleeping rule lends itself to misuse or abuse by empowering individual local authorities to advise Immigration Enforcement around support available/refused and target individuals/groups with ASB orders or notices.
We remain committed to:
Pressuring the government to scrap the rough sleeping rule altogether.
Monitoring how the rule is being implemented on the ground and challenging the government in cases where it is being abused or misapplied
We will continue to provide updates about our legal challenge in this area.
What can I do?
If you or someone you know is affected by the rule, or if you believe the local authority in which you live or work may be planning to co-operate with the rough sleeping rule, please contact email@example.com
You can also support one or both of two active campaigns opposing the rough sleeping rule: