Rounding up rough sleepers from EU is illegal, court rules new

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Dec 15, 2017
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The government faces potential damages claims after immigration enforcement units carried out raids on rough sleepers


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. 

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Go to the profile of Michael Hocken
Michael Hocken 5 months ago

If this is how the Government is treating EU nationals now, whilst we are still an EU Member State, why should our negotiating partners (let alone the 3 million plus non-UK EU nationals concerned) believe that we will behave any better once we’ve left? No wonder the Commission insisted on an eight year period of continuing ECJ oversight after withdrawal. This policy came from the top, and was but an extension of May’s approach as Home Secretary. She was, it’s worth recalling, the sole member of the Cameron cabinet to oppose the unilateral granting of guaranteed rights to EU nationals already in the UK in the wake of the Referendum result. Barnier and Verhofstadt will be watching developments on this front very carefully.