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Homeless charity colluding with Home Office to deport homeless!
Jack Jeffrey, homeless worker and Unite LE1111 branch member
Lawyers from the Public Interest Law Unit (PILU) have submitted a formal complaint against St Mungo's, one of the leading homelessness charities in the UK, for its work in colluding with the Home Office to illegally deport homeless EEA (European Economic Area) nationals.
As part of Theresa May's 'hostile environment' policy, the government had been arresting homeless EU migrants, placing them in detention and deporting them back to their country of origin on the spurious basis that if they were homeless they could not be exercising their EU treaty rights.
After this shameful practice was unearthed by a Corporate Watch report, a successful campaign was launched against this practice. This led to a judicial review, which in December 2017 declared the government's policy unlawful.
Since then a Freedom of Information request to Brent Council has emerged which reveals St Mungo's policy was to pass on the details of any EEA nationals who refused to be voluntarily 'reconnected' to their country of origin after 12 months to the Home Office.
This backs up the claims of the Corporate Watch report that not only did the Home Office act unlawfully, but it was with the collusion and support of homeless charities. These charities identified homeless EEA nationals for the Home Office to remove either through data sharing, or by allowing them to accompany the charity's outreach teams on shifts.
How did an organisation founded to support some of the most vulnerable in society come to act this way?
In the past charities and voluntary organisations were funded by donations or grants giving them freedom to act how they best saw fit.
However, following the financial crash in 2008 and the following years of austerity this has increasingly been replaced by income from government wishing to contract-out our services to cut costs.
As councils wishing to reduce the 'nuisance' of homelessness set high targets, often through payment by results contracts, the character of management in these organisations changes and they increasingly view their clients just as numbers.
Despite repeated warnings from St. Mungo's staff and the Unite LE1111 housing workers' branch that this policy was morally wrong and making vulnerable clients avoid outreach teams, it was this that led St Mungo's to carry on regardless.
Following the scandal earlier this year when the Tory leader of Windsor council said he intended to move homeless people during the royal wedding event (later rescinded after a public backlash), it transpires that over 50 councils in England and Wales have slapped public space protection orders (PSPO) on homeless people, resulting in bans and fines.
According to the Guardian, one homeless man was fined £105 for breaching a PSPO after a child dropped a £2 coin into his sleeping bag!
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