PRESS RELEASE: Deporting EU rough sleepers unlawful, High Court rules

Thursday, December 14th 2017

The High Court has ruled unlawful the Home Office policy of detaining and deporting rough sleepers from EEA countries for allegedly “abusing” EU free movement rights.

Mrs Justice Lang DBE granted the claims for judicial review in the cases of Gureckis, Perlinski & Cielecki v the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The cases, which were brought by the Public Interest Law Unit at Lambeth Law Centre, were heard over three days between 21 and 23 November 2017.

Mrs Justice Lang DBE found for the claimants on all three grounds:

  1. that the policy was unlawful because rough sleeping was not capable of amounting to an “abuse of rights”;
  2. that the policy was discriminatory against EEA nationals, and
  3. that the Home Office was carrying out a policy of systematically verifying whether rough sleepers were abusing their treaty rights or not.

Since early 2016, before the EU referendum, the Home Office had introduced successive polices aimed at tightening control over EEA nationals.

The Home Office, in collaboration with homeless charities St Mungo's and Thames Reach, carried out regular raids on locations they believed that they would find EEA nationals who could be deported.

EEA nationals, most of whom were from Eastern Europe, who were found rough sleeping were designated as abusing their EU free movement rights and subjected to administrative removal action, which includes detention pending removal. This applied regardless of whether they were working, regardless of whether they had a permanent right of residence, and regardless of their family ties to the UK.

PILU welcomed the judgment, saying:

“We are delighted that the court has been willing to protect the rights of a vulnerable group of workers who have been stigmatised both by the authorities and by sections of the media. Experience shows that if we stand by and allow a marginalised group to be victimised others can expect the same treatment later.

"Homelessness cannot humanely be dealt with by detaining or forcibly removing homeless people. This practice has been found unlawful and must immediately cease.”

The Public Interest Law Unit worked with a range of voluntary organisations to bring the challenge, including North East London Migrant Action (NELMA).

As well as bringing the judicial review action, together they assisted a number of rough sleepers to access legal advice and successfully challenge the treatment they had suffered.

The three claimants were represented by Paul Heron solicitor of PILU/LLC. Counsel were Marie Demetriou QC of Brick Court Chambers, Natalie Csengeri of Farringdon Chambers, Shanthi Sivakumaran of Lamb Building and Stephen Knight of One Pump Court chambers.

The AIRE Centre intervened in the proceedings and are represented by Zubier Yazdani of Deighton Pierce Glynn. Counsel was Brien Kennelly QC of Blackstone Chambers.

The Home Secretary was represented by the Government Legal Department. Counsel were James Eadie QC and Julie Anderson.

For enquiries about this story, please contact Michael Tarnoky at Lambeth Law Centre at mtarnoky@lambethlawcentre.org or on 020 7840 2006.

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