Brighton refuses to aid the deportation of non-EU rough sleepers

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Brighton has joined with other cities across the country in a refusal to share personal information about non-EU rough sleepers with the government amongst concerns that this will lead to deportation. 

Rough sleeping is harmful and dangerous. No one should have to sleep rough in this day and age. I will do all I can to help people in need here in Brighton & Hove.” (Councillor Nichole Brennan)

This month, a secret programme that used charities to ascertain personal information about homeless people to give to the Home Office without consent was uncovered by the Observer. This programme is understood to be the most recent example of the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, which peaked with the Windrush scandal.

This is the hostile context in which the recent Rough Sleepers Support Service has been introduced by The Home Office. Nationwide trust in the government to support societies most vulnerable has been lost, and for this reason councils across the UK are refusing to cooperate with the RSSS. The fact that an undocumented person may accept help from a homelessness outreach worker, for their information to then be shared with officials who want to deport them, is an insidious concept, but unfortunately, it seems like the reality. As the Home Office depicts in its own words: “The service is not an enforcement approach, but action may be considered on a case-by-case basis”

Brighton will not take this risk. In response to the national newspaper reports about the deportation of homeless people across the country, Councillor Nichole Brennan who is the Deputy Chair of the Housing Committee released a statement:

We’re working with partners across the city to support the many vulnerable people who live out on our streets to overcome their complex problems, and find the best way to rebuild their lives. Our city has long been under pressure from growing homelessness at this time of austerity. St Mungo’s has run the council’s rough sleeper outreach homelessness service since 2015 and has provided compassionate care under difficult circumstances.

We sometimes help people experiencing homelessness in Brighton & Hove return to their home countries, but will only do so with their explicit permission to act this way on their behalf. We will not pass on personal data to the Home Office unless we’re sure informed consent has been given from the individual concerned.

Rough sleeping is harmful and dangerous. No one should have to sleep rough in this day and age. I will do all I can to help people in need here in Brighton & Hove.”

There are many campaigns in Brighton to support people who are sleeping on the streets.

Find out how Brighton helps homeless people here.

Find out more about you can help here.

To read St Mungo’s response to the reports in national media click here.

Featured image © Garry Knight

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