The government can now deport foreign people who become homeless

This is what the government’s new rules about foreign rough sleepers mean

The government now has the power to deport foreign people who have slept rough, under controversial new rules that came into force on December 1st.

Amnesty International has called the change “shockingly cruel and inhumane”, and you’ve probably seen people sharing a yellow tile on Instagram drawing attention to it.

But what’s actually happening? And what do these new rules mean?

What are the new rules that mean the government can deport foreign people for being homeless?

As of December 1st, immigration officials have the power deport foreign nationals for sleeping rough – even for just one night.

This includes people legally living in the UK, who can have their right to stay in the UK refused or cancelled.

The change was announced in October and came into force on December 1st.

Estimates suggest that that over a quarter of rough sleepers in the UK are foreign nationals. In London, however, the figure is nearly 50 per cent.

The government says the rules are “discretionary” and will be used “only where individuals refuse to engage with the range of support available and engage in persistent anti-social behaviour”.

However, campaigners have denounced it as “unacceptable and cruel”.

Experts say the new rules will make it harder for people to get help

Obvious moral issues aside, campaigners say the policy will a lot of practical issues for people who are already struggling.

It will become harder for foreign people who fall homeless to get help, charities argue. “Seeking to deport people for the sole reason that they are homeless will undoubtedly mean fewer people coming forward for help,” Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, told the Guardian.

Experts are also concerned it could also “push people into riskier and exploitative situations” to avoid rough sleeping, risking putting victims in a “revolving door of abuse and re-victimisation”, reports the Independent.

Home Office hostile environment rules already make it harder for foreign people to get housing. Landlords face severe penalties if they rent to somebody without the legal right to rent in the UK – which has resulted in people with foreign-sounding names getting rejected out of hand, studies have showed.

The Court of Appeal said these housing rules could result in discrimination against UK nationals, or those with the right to rent, who do not have a passport or an “ethnically British” name.

Many people affected by the new rules already have “no recourse to public funds” – meaning they can’t get benefits which might stop them becoming homeless. “People who have no recourse to public funds because of their immigration status have little or no access to support in the first place and are forced into rough sleeping if they are unable to work,” Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis told the Independent.

“This is a situation that will only worsen as the economic impact of the pandemic begins to bite.”

People have called the new rules ‘inhumane and morally wrong’

London mayor Sadiq Khan has urged the government to scrap the new rules, saying: “the injustice and cruelty exhibited by the proposed new immigration laws is a chilling reminder of how the most vulnerable people in our society can be targeted when those in power don’t believe anyone will notice or care.

The charity Crisis has started a petition which currently has over 36,000 signatures and calls on the government to reverse the new rules.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, said: “It is shockingly cruel and inhumane to threaten someone with deportation simply because they have been driven into rough sleeping.

“People who sleep rough are often already extremely vulnerable, in many cases having been forced onto the streets because of violence or exploitation – and sometimes because of injustice and error in Home Office decision-making.

“It is especially appalling that this heartless policy is being introduced during a pandemic when life for those without a proper place to live is already incredibly difficult.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour MP and shadow home secretary, said: “These plans would be appalling at any moment, but what makes it even worse is putting this forward as we face the deepest recession in generations and in the middle of a global pandemic.

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