Council says ‘no’ to Home Office

Haringey Council will not comply with Home Office Rough Sleepers Support Service

By Luchia Robinson

 

Haringey Council, River Park House      Credit: Stephen Furner

Haringey Council will not be cooperating with Home Office Enforcement teams by sharing rough sleepers information with them.

The council’s announcement follows a report from The Observer which revealed that the Home Office has created a programme called the Rough Sleepers Support Service (RSSS), which uses homelessness charities as a way of acquiring rough sleepers’ personal data without the individual’s consent.

The collecting of data by the programme ignores European privacy laws and could be used as a discrimination tool to guard borders.

The Haringey Rough Sleeping Taskforce, a partnership between the council, Homes for Haringey, All People All Places, St Mungo’s and Thames Reach, deliver outreach services to people rough sleeping in the borough.

Cllr Emine Ibrahim, Cabinet Member for Housing and Estate renewal, has said that neither the council nor external organisations it works with will have a part in the RSSS programme.

“More than 65% of people rough sleeping in Haringey are not British citizens. But they are all Haringey residents and a welcome part of our diverse borough,” said Cllr Ibrahim.

“Due to their limited eligibility to access benefits, housing and healthcare, non-British people are some of the most vulnerable people on our streets and we are severely restricted in how we can support them.

“Nonetheless, the focus of our work has always and will always be about helping people to exit street homelessness safely, with dignity and with choice.”

Cllr Ibrahim added: “We do help people experiencing homelessness in Haringey return to their home countries. However, we only do this, and will only ever do this, with their explicit permission and when a package of support and transition have been developed with them.”

Local campaign group, Haringey Welcome (who work for fairness and respect for migrants and refugees in the borough) is glad to hear of the Council’s decision.

Lucy Nabijou, Coordinator, Haringey Welcome, said: “If the rough sleeper is worried that their information is not going to be kept confidential, then they are going to be very hard to help.

“To the extent that [rough sleepers] can be helped, it’s really important that the relationship of trust can be relied upon.

“The issue of rough sleeping is not just a Tottenham problem or a Haringey problem– it’s very widespread, and many of the [rough sleepers] have issues with getting their status confirmed with the Home Office.

“Many of them have the right to stay here but there are so many hoops that they need to jump through, and they get caught up in the system and end up in these very difficult circumstances, and can become destitute.

“They really need help to get those things sorted out so that they can stabilise their lives. Instead, this government policy just accentuates this hostile environment even further.”

Last November, Haringey Council committed to repealing the hostile environment (governmental policies that make living in the UK, difficult for residents with non-settled status), by signing a pledge drawn up by Haringey Welcome, calling for respect, dignity, protection, welcome and integration for all residents. A motion was then passed.

Haringey’s refusal to comply with the Home Office follows recent figures which show that rough sleeping in the borough, has risen by 19%.

The data released by the Greater London Authority (CHAIN reports), reveals that 253 rough sleepers were recorded in Haringey between April 2018 and March 2019– this has risen from the 212 recorded over the same period in previous years.

In response to these figures, Assembly Member for Enfield and Haringey, Joanne McCartney, said: “It is profoundly concerning to see rough sleeping on the rise in our community.

“The Government’s callous welfare reforms and failure to provide the necessary support to those with complex immigration cases are pushing more of the most vulnerable Londoners onto the streets and into the most desperate situations.”

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