Home Office policy of deporting homeless EU citizens is illegal, High Court rules

The High Court has ordered the Government to stop deporting homeless EU citizens under a controversial policy that has been ruled unlawful.

Mrs Justice Lang said measures introduced last year were discriminatory and violated European law, following a challenge by two Polish men and a Latvian.

The three men were all facing removal because they were found by police and immigration officers sleeping rough.

Mrs Justice Lang said homelessness alone did not meet the legal requirements for deportation, even if accompanied by offences including begging, drinking and nuisance.

“There has been a significant increase in rough sleepers of all nationalities,” she said. “The policy discriminated unlawfully against EEA [European Economic Area] nationals and rough sleepers.”

Her ruling found the practice unlawful on three grounds, including by allowing banned “systematic verification” – effectively sweeping for people to deport without reasonable grounds.

The judge issued “quashing” orders throwing out the Home Office’s policy as published in February and ordered it to pay the claimants’ legal costs. 

The Government published a revised policy shortly before the High Court hearing, which was too short to be considered and had not received ministerial approval.

Mrs Justice Lang urged the Home Secretary to “take stock and reconsider the terms of the proposed revised policy, in the light of advice from her legal advisers”.

The Home Office said it would not be appealing the judgment and would “consider carefully” what changes to make to future enforcement.

The Independent understands operations targeting migrants sleeping rough have stopped and there are no immediate plans to draw up a new policy.

The claimants were represented by the Public Interest Law Unit (PILU), which pieced the case together over nine months after being alerted by day centres and charities including North East London Migrant Action.

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