This week Bristol’s Green councillors have signed and promoted a petition calling on the government to scrap new Home Office rules that would criminalise migrant rough sleepers and force them to leave the UK. The rules would apply even if the person came to the UK legally and had been living and working here for decades.
The petition from homelessness charity Crisis has almost 50,000 signatures. It is part of a campaign backed by over 70 homelessness organisations who have signed an open letter calling on the government to shelve the new plans, which it describes as a “a damaging policy that will risk further exploitation for people sleeping rough”.
Green Councillor Carla Denyer said:
“The Home office’s new rules will effectively punish people for being homeless and lead to homeless people avoiding seeking support for fear of risking removal. That these changes are taking place in the middle of winter as thousands face losing their jobs is even worse.
“Criminalising homelessness in this way could result in migrants being pushed into exploitative or dangerous work to avoid the risk of being forced to leave the country, and risks making it harder for victims of domestic violence to seek help. To tackle homelessness, rough sleepers need our support – not to be further stigmatised and criminalised.”
The same week (Tuesday December 15th) fellow Green Councillor Fi Hance spoke at a panel event run by campaign group Bristol student action for refugees which campaigns for the government to end indefinite immigration detention. Students from across the UK attended to hear stories from asylum seekers who have suffered as a result of Home Office policies.
Speaking after the event, Fi said: “The government’s stated intention to create a hostile environment is inhumane and cruel. Asylum seekers in the UK face appalling threats, from indefinite detention in terrible conditions to being removed from the country if they are found to be homeless. And government rules even prevent them from seeking work while waiting for a decision on an asylum claim. This is no way for a civilised society to behave.”
“Campaigners like City of Sanctuary are calling on local authorities to follow the recent example of Haringey and not cooperate with the Home Office over these new rules. I fully support this call and have raised it with the administration.”
Image credit – Crisis
You can sign Crisis’ petition here: https://campaigns.crisis.org.uk/page/70462/petition/1
For more information on Haringey Council’s non-cooperation with the Home Office, see this opinion piece: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/dec/07/council-refusing-help-home-office-deport-rough-sleepers-homeless