Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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End to restrictions on Eastern European nationals

April 15 2011
Far-reaching implications for A10s

The restrictions placed on the countries which joined the European Union in 2004 will come to an end at the end of May, with far-reaching implications for Eastern European migrants, including rough sleepers.

The UK was one of the few countries that gave full access to jobs for workers from the eight Eastern European nations (Poland, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia and the Czech Republic) which joined the EU seven years ago.

In the UK, the ending of these so-called "transitional arrangements" will mean that thousands more migrants will have greater access to state benefits, as Britain had imposed a 12-month restriction for access to certain handouts.

Any Eastern European who is able to show that they have lived in the UK for three months and can demonstrate a "settled intent to remain" will be able to reside here permanently, and claim jobseeker’s allowance, council tax and housing benefit.

At present, around a quarter of rough sleepers in London are from Central or Eastern Europe. Homeless Link, an umbrella organisation for those who work with homeless people, has produced a guide to help service providers and local authorities understand the changing situation.

At the top of their list of guidance, Homeless Link suggests that local authorities should try to make an "offer of connection" to enable Eastern European rough sleepers to return to their home countries. Homeless Link also warns that, despite the lifting of restrictions, access to hostels and benefits is still not guaranteed.

The guidance notes published on the charity’s website explain: "All EEA [European Economic Area] nationals are required to show that they are habitually resident and have a settled intention to remain in the UK in order to claim out of work income related benefits.

"There is no automatic entitlement to welfare benefits once the transitional arrangements end for A8 nationals. Each case is determined on an individual basis. Access to hostels or other supported accommodation is not automatic, even if an applicant satisfies the Habitual Residence Test and has an entitlement to welfare benefits. Most local authorities require evidence of a local connection to their area as a condition of access to accommodation or support services."

The ending of restrictions will also mean that A8 nationals who want to work in the UK no longer have to register with the UK Border Agency.

To access state benefits, people from A8 countries will have to pass the "habitual residence" test, showing that they are have been settled in the UK for three months and plan to stay here. To be allowed to stay, applicants must be working, studying, seeking work or self-sufficient. Homeless Link have pointed out that, "this may not be possible for someone who is currently rough sleeping with an intermittent employment history."

Worryingly, some local authorities are already contemplating the forced removal of A8 nationals who fail to meet these criteria. In Bognor Regis, West Sussex, for example, Arun District Council is considering deportation for those who refuse to consider a "settled life", with any forced removals funded by the UK Border Agency.

An Arun spokeswoman said the District Council is interested in becoming the first in Sussex to follow pilot projects run in seven areas - including Westminster and Southampton - where Eastern Europeans and other foreign nationals were removed if they refused to return home of their own accord.