Several nights a week, immigration patrols are out targeting rough sleepers in London, now a prime focus for raids under Theresa May’s “hostile environment” policy. The arrests are carried out by Home Office “Immigration Compliance and Enforcement” (ICE) teams. But they rely on the active collaboration of the Mayor, local councils, and homelessness charities. Charity outreach workers set out to help homeless people. But through a creeping process of changes they are being turned into informers, while some of the city’s most vulnerable people are disappeared into the nightmare of indefinite detention and deportation. This investigation shows how: 1. Outreach teams from charities St Mungo’s, Thames Reach, and Change, Grow, Live (CGL) conduct regular joint “visits” with Immigration Enforcement officers, as often as fortnightly in central boroughs. Freedom of Information (FOI) responses show 141 such patrols organised by the GLA and 12 London boroughs last year. This figure does not include Westminster, the biggest concentration of London homelessness, where patrols are likely to be even more frequent. 2. Joint visits in just eight of these areas led to 133 rough sleepers being detained, while 127 people were deported in under a year in Westminster alone. 3. Charity bosses say their role is to persuade non-UK rough sleepers to leave “voluntarily”. But the FOI figures show that detention and enforced deportation is more common; in any case, so-called “voluntary” departures are carried out under the threat of force. 4. Outreach teams also routinely pass on locations of non-UK rough sleepers to ICE, including through the London-wide CHAIN database, and through local co-operation agreements. 5. The GLA has contracted St Mungo’s and Thames Reach under “payment by numbers” schemes where fees depend on the number of rough sleepers they get out of the country. 6. EU and other European Economic Area (EEA) nationals are the main targets, as they make up nearly half of London rough sleepers. Migrants from Romania, Poland, and other East European countries are particularly affected. 7. In May 2016, the Home Office toughened the rules so that European rough sleepers can be arrested for deportation if found sleeping rough on just one night. 8. Tough policy on migrant rough sleepers was “intensely lobbied” for by Westminster Council, and encouraged by the “Mayor’s Rough Sleeping Group”, which included senior charity managers from St Mungo’s, Thames Reach, Homeless Link, and also Crisis. Rough sleeper deportations are at the cutting edge of Theresa May’s “hostile environment” approach where immigration controls are spreading across schools, hospitals, and housing. The “hostile environment” is based on collaboration. But it can be broken by solidarity and resistance. We are already seeing examples of refusal by some homelessness workers and campaigners; the conclusion gives some ideas for how it could spread.
In The Round-Up: rough sleeper immigration raids and charity collaboration (Corporatewatch)