Today the High Court has ruled that rough sleeping does not constitute an abuse of EU free movement rights and that the Home Office policy in this regard is unlawful. A revised policy, which has not yet received ministerial approval, was published shortly before the hearing, on 30 October 2017. Mrs Justice Lang declined to give guidance on the lawfulness of this revised policy but suggested the Secretary of State should “take stock and re-consider the terms of the proposed revised policy, in the light of advice from her legal advisers”.

Three EEA nationals, Mr Gureckis, Mr Perlinski and Mr Ceilecki, faced removal action by the Home Office because they were sleeping rough in the UK. Their claims against the Home Office were brought by the Public Interest Law Unit. The AIRE centre intervened in the proceedings. The court’s ruling found that the Home Office’s definition of rough sleeping as an abuse of EU law free movement rights was contrary to EU law. It also found that the Home Office policy was discriminatory and amounted to an unlawful systematic verification of the EEA nationals’ rights to reside.  

The Home Office introduced the concept of rough sleeping as an abuse of rights in their administrative removal policy of May 2016. This concept was repeated in the February 2017 incarnation of the policy.

Following this ruling the Home Office may face claims for unlawful detention where it has detained individuals on the basis of this unlawful policy. Those who have been removed from the UK and face a 12 month re-entry ban may also be entitled to have that ban lifted and be admitted to the UK.

Through Operations Adoze and Gopik the Home Office targeted rough sleepers to remove them from the UK even if they were working or had the permanent right of residence. The evidence showed that the initial questioning and verification was part of a blanket policy, which only occurred because, under the terms of the policy, EEA nationals rough sleeping were presumed to be abusing their EEA rights of residence. This was also the very reason why this group were specifically targeted on the streets by Immigration enforcements teams who were often assisted by the police and local authorities. Many EEA nationals have been subjected to such removal action.

Zubier Yazdani of Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors who represented the AIRE centre in its intervention said,

‘The Court has upheld the well-established definition of an abuse of rights under EU law and sent a strong message to the Home Office that its removal of rough sleeping EU citizens is totally unlawful and discriminatory. This ruling serves as a reminder to the Home Office that EU law still applies as it always has done and no gloss that the Home Office wants to put on the rights of EU citizens can change the meaning and effect of that .’

The European Commission has recently confirmed that homelessness does not affect a EU citizen’s right to live in another EU member state.  This accords with the judgment of the High Court today.  This decision comes as a significant defeat for the Home Office in their desire to create a ‘hostile environment’ for foreign nationals.  

For further information contact the AIRE centre’s director Matthew Evans (0207 831 4276)

Zubier Yazdani instructed Brian Kennelly QC of Blackstone Chambers who drafted the submissions for the AIRE Centre