Home Office policy on EEA administrative removal deemed unlawful

Friday, 15 December 2017 - 3:27pm

The Home Office policy to deport rough sleeping European Economic Area (EEA) nationals who it deems to be: “in abuse of EU treaty rights”, has been ruled unlawful by the High Court. 

blurred people in front of traffic lights

The landmark case was brought by the Public Interest Law Unit and North East London Migrant Action (NELMA) on behalf of three EEA nationals. All three were facing detention and removal from the UK after being found sleeping rough.

The ruling found that the Home Office’s definition of rough sleeping as an “abuse of EU law free movement rights” was contrary to EU law. It also found that the policy was discriminatory and amounted to an unlawful systematic verification of the EEA nationals’ rights to reside. The ruling means that the Home Office now has to change its policy and could lead to further challenges and compensation claims for EEA nationals now deemed illegally detained. Within hours of the judgement, the Home Office published an updated version of the guidance, removing all references to rough sleeping.

This specific policy was brought into practice in 2016 through Home Office guidance and builds on a range of measures under the government’s self-titled “hostile environment” which aims to reduce net migration to the UK. For the first time, it moved towards criminalising rough sleeping by interpreting rough sleeping as an abuse of EU treaty rights. As a result, any EEA national found rough sleeping across the UK could be liable for detention and removal to their home country. Homeless Link members have fed back to us that this approach has impacted upon their services, with clients reporting confiscation of ID documents and confusion over removal letters, or simply disappearing from frontline services.

The Home Office has stated they do not plan to appeal the judgment and accepted the decision of the courts.

“We’re extremely pleased that the High Court found this policy unlawful. Rather than tackling the causes of migrant rough sleeping effectively and humanely, it wrongfully criminalised homelessness. We believe that no one should be left destitute in this country and that, as with all rough sleepers, this particularly vulnerable group of individuals should be offered the most appropriate support to help end their homelessness.” – Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of Homeless Link