Rounding up rough sleepers from EU is illegal, court rules new
CHRISTOPHER FURLONG/GETTY IMAGES
Hundreds of eastern European rough sleepers could claim compensation after the High Court ruled that the Home Office unlawfully rounded them up for deportation (Sean O’Neill and Greg Hurst write).
Mrs Justice Lang told Amber Rudd, the home secretary, to “take stock” after a ruling that found the targeting of foreign rough sleepers was wrong in law and discriminatory.
The first raids on rough sleepers occurred in London in 2015 before becoming a national exercise, Operation Gopik, aimed at homeless people from eastern Europe. They were deemed to be in breach of their EU treaty rights by bedding down on the streets.
Homelessness charities, including St Mungo’s and Thames Reach, local councils and the police worked with immigration enforcement units that implemented the policy.
The Home Office refuses to say how many people were detained and deported. Paul Heron, of the Public Interest Law Unit, brought the case on behalf of three men, two of whom were from Poland and one from Latvia.
“There are potentially hundreds of claims for damages for unlawful detention,” Heron said. “We have at least ten clients and other law firms have clients who have been illegally detained.
“Homelessness cannot humanely be dealt with by detaining or forcibly removing homeless people.”
The Home Office said that it was disappointed but would not appeal. It had argued that the policy was a response to “persistent and intentional rough sleeping” by large numbers of people coming from central and eastern Europe having made no accommodation arrangements.