Published On: 13th July 2023

We are pleased to announce the online publication of the third and final part of PILC’s Other Voices series.

‘England Took Us In’: Polish Rough Sleepers Speak Back takes the form of a dialogue between five Polish men with a history of rough sleeping. (Find a Polish-language version here).

Albert, Andrzej (‘Bieszczady’), Eugeniusz, Eryk (‘Fragles’) and Radek (‘Fontanna’) were members of a Polish-language coffee-mornings group run by PILC in 2021 and 2022. This was a space where Polish speakers who were or had been homeless could come together to share experiences and talk about issues that affected them.

The conversation presented in the booklet ranges widely over themes including: the experience of sleeping rough; trying to find a stable place to live or stay; encounters with support services and immigration enforcement; being a victim of violence; being homeless during Covid-19; and working in the black and grey economies.

We hope ‘England Took Us In’ will offer activists, lawyers, homelessness workers and scholars—among others—valuable insight into the experience and analysis of homeless non-UK nationals. We’re extremely grateful to Albert, Andrzej, Eugeniusz, Eryk, and Radek for their eloquence, trust and patience throughout the process of preparing this publication.

In September 2023 we will hold a launch event to mark the publication of a limited run of print copies of the booklet and to celebrate the PILC clients, friends and comrades who have contributed to all three parts of the Other Voices series.  

Please watch this space for further announcements about the launch event!

About the Other Voices series:

Litigation is at the core of PILC’s work. We bring legal cases on behalf of oppressed groups & individuals and in solidarity with grassroots activists fighting for radical change. In our short lifetime we’ve won victories that have helped counter some of the worst excesses of state surveillance, social cleansing, gender-based violence & structural racism.

The courts are a necessary terrain in the struggle for a better world. Yet we’re painfully aware of the limits of legal action. The law is a product of the socio-economic system we live under. It is set up to reinforce that system. The remedies offered by judges or public inquiries will always be inadequate to addressing systemic harm.

Since our foundation as a law centre we’ve tried to hammer home the wider social and political implications of the cases we take on. We also undertake radical rights education and work to raise awareness of how public law can help communities resist injustice.

In 2020 we launched a blog and began publishing advocacy reports, personal testimonies and policy analysis. We’ve come to see researching and telling compelling stories about how the law operates in our society as a vital complement to our day-to-day litigation and casework.

Our Other Voices series of publications builds on this strand of PILC’s work by making space for voices that tend to be marginalised in mainstream legal, policy and human-rights discourses.

With a focus on PILC’s priority area of racial justice and migrants’ rights, we centre the practices and analysis of frontline workers and activists, as well as people and communities treated by our (legal-political-economic) system as marginal or disposable—who inhabit, as Denise Ferreira Da Silva writes, ‘that place where what should happen to nobody happens every day’.

We don’t see this series as an exercise in ‘inclusion’ or ‘user voice’. Making the tent bigger is pointless if the rules of the game stay the same. We’d like these publications to upset the terms of the ‘policy debate’ around migration and homelessness—its language, its horizons and the power relations expressed through its very silences.

Our contributors—PILC staff, clients and friends—speak & write with eloquence, intellect and deep feeling, challenging received narratives and leaden theories of change. They offer a sobering account of the way things are now.

Through the spirit & energy of resistance they articulate, they also gesture towards a future worth fighting for.

Illustrations by Aurelia Lange.