Home Office ‘wants to turn charity workers into border guards’

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Liberty says a UK Government scheme would lead to the deportation of non-UK rough sleepers.

8th July 2019 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

The Home Office has asked charities to provide them with information that could lead to homeless refugees or immigrants being deported, according to Liberty.

A series of emails obtained by the human rights charity reveals that some charities working with the homeless or refugees have been asked to forward case information to a programme called the Rough Sleeper Support Service (RSSS).

The emails also detail a meeting between Home Office officials and homelessness charity St Mungo’s, in which the possibility of workers being able to enter a person’s data into RSSS without their consent was discussed.

As reported in The Observer, one of the emails states that the programme “provides a single point of contact for LAs [local authorities] to receive rapid immigration status checks on non-UK national rough sleepers”.

The email then details why the scheme should bypass EU privacy laws, claiming that compliance with the GDPR would leave the programme “vulnerable to individuals withdrawing consent.”

Liberty says the RSSS data could be used to target non-UK homeless people for deportation.

Gracie Bradley, the charity’s policy and campaigns manager, said: “It’s disgraceful that the Home Office, local authorities, and charities are attempting to turn trusted homelessness outreach workers into border guards.

“Homelessness charities must refuse complicity in the hostile environment.”

The emails, dated between December 2018 and May 2019, come after a Home Office policy to deport rough sleepers from the European Economic Area was ruled unlawful.

A spokesman for the Public Interest Law Centre, which fought the case, said: “It’s now clear the Home Office – with the Greater London Authority, local councils and some homelessness charities – is trying to resurrect this discriminatory policy under a different guise.

“Despite its name, the new RSSS offers no ‘support’ to homeless migrants living in the UK. It is a hostile environment measure in all but name.”

A Home Office spokesman said the scheme would “help to resolve status issues” and allow support to be prioritised on “outstanding cases”.