This week Immigration Rule changes targeting rough sleeping migrants came into force. The Home Office has confirmed that the new Rules will not be enforced until official guidance is published, but the changes have been met with defiance across the board.
In particular, the Greater London Authority (GLA) has stated that it will not cooperate with the Home Office on this issue:
rather than supporting people to come off the streets, these new rules will punish rough sleepers simply for not having a home. Therefore, the GLA and its commissioned services will not collaborate with such draconian measures.
“Commissioned services” refers to the Combined Homelessness and Information Network, or CHAIN, a multi-agency database recording information about those sleeping on the streets across London. Outreach teams, accommodation providers and other homelessness organisations add data to the CHAIN database.
The GLA says it is prohibiting any organisations trusted with CHAIN data from communicating it to the Home Office. Failure to abide by this may see the organisation’s access being withdrawn.
The reasoning is that CHAIN is for supporting rough sleepers, not deporting them. The move also comes in the context of past criticism of councils and homelessness charities for helping the Home Office to round up rough sleepers from EU countries.
Whether in practice this makes much difference to the Home Office’s ability to target rough sleepers is another matter. But these acts of defiance certainly send a powerful message. It will be interesting to see whether other regions follow London’s lead.