One less thing for the city’s rough sleepers to worry about.
The council have said there are “no current plans for further joint operations” with the Home Office to kick out European rough sleepers from the city and country.
The new position from the council follows an investigation in the Cable last year that revealed the council had successfully applied for funding from the government’s ‘Controlling Migration Fund’. The plan was to work with Immigration Enforcement with an aim to ‘target detention of [rough sleeping] individuals’ specifically those from the EU, and remove them from the UK by force if necessary.
The project was set to be run in conjunction with homeless charity St Mungo’s. However a High Court ruling in December 2017 found that the government’s policy of detaining and deporting European rough sleepers on the basis of being homeless was unlawful, and that rough sleeping was not an ‘abuse’ of EU freedom of movement rights as the government claimed.
Asked whether the £180,000 in funding received from the Home Office would be used for another initiative, a council spokesperson said: “We are still in discussion with the Home Office and there are no current plans for further joint operations,” referring to joint patrols conducted by the Immigration Enforcement officers and council staff, some of which have been ongoing for several years.
The spokesperson added that “this ruling has not had a major impact on our local programme of supporting homeless EU nationals.”
Bristol City of Sanctuary, who previously called on the council to stop working with the Home Office, has welcomed the news. Caroline Beatty, Vice Chair of the organisation that advocates for a culture of hospitality towards migrants said: “We welcome the High Court ruling that it is unlawful to detain or remove an EU citizen from the UK on grounds of rough sleeping.
“Bristol City of Sanctuary and the refugee sector are continuing to work with the City Council to ensure safety in Bristol for all rough sleepers, including those who have been made destitute through government asylum policy,” she added.
While dozens of non-British rough sleepers have been detained over the years in Bristol, the court ruling and the lack of further plans will come as a relief to individuals who would otherwise face being sent to privately run immigration detention centres that have been hit by scandals of abuse and neglect of detainees.
One such person is Laura*, a British women in Bristol who told the Cable that her European partner was detained by the police and ‘accused’ of rough sleeping last year. The man was set for a court date in January to prove that he wasn’t rough sleeping or otherwise ‘abusing’ his rights as an EU migrant as defined by the government. Following the High Court ruling in December, the case was dropped.
Although the council may not have further plans with Immigration Enforcement for this particular purpose, the council still maintains a working relationship on other issues.
*Not her real name