European federation’s call comes as rough sleeping figures in London up 16%
Feantsa: ‘UK must stop deporting rough sleepers’
European homelessness organisations are demanding that the UK scraps a pilot scheme to forcibly deport homeless people to their country of origin.
Feantsa, the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, has also asked the European Union to set clearer rules to define whether EU citizens are an unreasonable burden on welfare systems and should be deported.
In 2010, the UK Border Agency introduced a pilot scheme to deport eastern Europeans found sleeping out in parts of London, Oxford, Reading and Peterborough. The scheme allows the deportation of people who have been in the UK for longer than three months and have no prospect of working or studying.
Feantsa said it ‘opposes arbitrary expulsions’ and added that EU directive 2004/38 says ‘an expulsion measure shall not be the automatic consequence of a Union citizen’s recourse to the social assistance system’.
Feantsa’s intervention marks its second objection in a month to UK homelessness policies. Last month the organisation warned that London was following a ‘worrying’ European-wide trend to criminalise homeless people. It cited a proposed by-law from Westminster Council that would have outlawed rough sleeping in parts of the borough. The council has since shelved the plan.
The federation’s latest objection came as figures from homelessness database Chain revealed a 16 per cent rise in the number of rough sleepers in the capital.
From January to March this year, 1,364 people were seen sleeping rough in London boroughs, up from 1,178 in the same quarter last year. Twenty-eight per cent were from central and eastern Europe.
Jenny Edwards, chief executive of charity Homeless Link, said: ‘There are some very worrying things, but at this point in the economic climate, it’s not surprising to see the figures going up.’
Hostel bed space in the capital has also fallen significantly in the last 12 months, Ms Edwards added. She said that ‘500 beds have been lost and two-thirds of services say they never have a vacancy’.
‘But in general, even in London boroughs where they’re seeing an increase, the number of people who they see again is very low, which means that the work that is going on to get people off the streets is successful.’
Alastair Murray, regions coordinator for charity Housing Justice, said: ‘If people aren’t in a position to work because of alcohol dependency then there’s a Europe-wide responsibility to our vulnerable people and I don’t think people should be deported.’