MPs have demanded an end to a controversial UK immigration rule that allows for the deportation of immigrants sleeping rough on Britain’s streets. Labour MP, Claudia Webb, led fresh calls for the government to scrap its policy that sanctions a person’s deportation if they are homeless.
Under UK immigration rules that came into force on 1 December 2020, sleeping rough can be grounds for the Home Office to refuse or cancel a person’s permission to be in Britain. The Home Office has insisted that it will apply the rule ‘sparingly’.
However, a motion tabled by Ms Webbe has raised concerns over the ‘very broad scope of grounds’ that can be used to refuse or cut short someone’s stay in the UK. The Labour MP’s motion has been backed by a wide range of cross-party MPs, including Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat leader.
No protections for those evicted unlawfully
The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas and Webbe’s fellow Labour MP, Diane Abbott, have also voiced concerns over the policy, which does not include protections for people who are unlawfully evicted from private properties.
The controversial policy has been widely condemned. Several local councils have refused to adhere to the rule.
Webbe, the MP for Leicester East, created an Early Day Motion (EDM) urging the government to ‘revoke the discriminatory new immigration rule and set-in place a plan to permanently eradicate rough sleeping.’
The Labour MP said that targeting homeless immigrants for deportation is yet another example of the Conservative government's mistreatment and demonisation’ of foreign nationals.’
Strong on immigration
In her EDM, she wrote: “It has sadly been a tried and tested technique of reactionary governments to gild their destructive administrations with a toxic veneer of appearing ‘strong’ on immigration. Yet, this divide and rule tactic has only ever brought misery to all working people, regardless of their country of birth.”
“Throughout this pandemic, the injustice of the No Recourse to Public Funds policy, the inadequacies of COVID-19 support packages and universal credit, spikes in domestic violence, and the failure to cap rents and cancel arrears continue to leave more and more people vulnerable to homelessness,” her motion explained.
Leading charities and councils back calls
Critics of the policy, including several leading charities and local councils, accused the government of ‘punishing the most vulnerable’. Many councils have vowed to defy the rule, while several leading charities have urged the government to reconsider the new rule, describing it as ‘dangerous’.
In a letter sent last year to UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, a group of charities called on the government to work with them to deliver more positive and effective alternatives than the deportation policy.
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Everyone In Scheme helped saved the lives of hundreds of homeless people, some of whom were foreign nationals. In Scotland and Wales, efforts continue to provide emergency accommodation.
However, in England, homeless foreign nationals are faced with the prospect of losing their right to remain in the UK, prompting action from those opposed to the policy.
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