While negotiators have spent the past year grappling over the status of EU nationals post-Brexit, some of these individuals are already being removed from the UK.
According to the UK Government, non-UK EU nationals who are found to be sleeping rough are allegedly committing an ‘abuse’ or ‘misuse’ of their EU Treaty rights, and qualify for ‘administrative removal’. Official figures show that 5,230 homeless EU nationals were forced to leave the UK by the Home Office between January and March 2017 – an alarming 27 per cent increase on the 4,113 removed in the same period last year.
Some of the rough sleepers are employed, or have been in the UK for less than three months, so are clearly not breaking the rules. However - whatever the circumstances - it’s simply unacceptable to treat homelessness as a criminal offence. Thankfully, this policy is being resisted both in the UK and at an EU level.
I am supporting a legal challenge in the EU by the migrant community support network Praxis, Migrants’ Rights Network, and FEANTSA (an organisation working to tackle homelessness across the EU). These groups assert that rough sleeping does not amount to an abuse of rights under the EU Citizens’ Rights Directive, and that the UK is failing to properly implement this important piece of legislation.
Meanwhile, another case being brought by campaign group North East London Migrant Action in conjunction with the Public Interest Law Unit at Lambeth Law Centre, has been granted permission in the High Court to judicially review this cruel Home Office policy.
I endorse these two cases, both on legal and moral grounds. Greens are strong advocates for free movement and recognise the complex factors behind homelessness. In my constituency of London, even people in employment often struggle to keep a roof over their heads due to precarious contracts and exorbitant rents. Penalising those who find themselves in such a vulnerable situation is shameful, and I hope it will soon become unlawful.