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UKBA crackdown on homeless illegal migrants

November 03 2012
Some Indian rough sleepers detained; others helped to return home

Some 15 Indian rough sleepers are being held in a detention centre pending their removal from the UK after being arrested by UK Border Agency (UKBA) staff last month.

At 6am on 19 September, UKBA officers and representatives of Hounslow Council swooped in on the area where the men were sleeping, under an M4 bridge in Heston, west London.

Three additional Indian nationals found at the site – two of whom required medical treatment (one for TB) – have been granted immigration bail and will have to report regularly to UKBA while their case is progressed. The Highways Agency has now sealed off the site to prevent other rough sleepers gaining access.

"Obviously, they were living in pretty squalid conditions with serious concerns for their welfare, which is why they remain detained," said Adam Edwards, a spokesman for UKBA London and South-East.

"It's not possible to say exactly how long each will be held for because each case has to be dealt with individually.

UKBA officers raided the same site in March this year, leading to the arrest of 13 individuals, 10 of whom have been returned to India.

"This particular issue and this particular site involving homeless migrants is something that local immigration teams have been aware of for some time," said Edwards, "We've been engaged in a number of projects with local authorities, charities and police and community groups to assist – and those projects are mirrored across the country."

These charities include Thames Reach, which, Edwards says, "we liaise with quite closely. They've been involved in a quite a lot of work that we've done with regards to homeless migrants, for example outreach work and going out to places where homeless people are known to sleep to get the ball rolling with regards to documentation."

Edwards confirmed that the UKBA is involved in a government drive "to prevent abuse of the NHS and benefits system", alongside Border Force – tackling issues such as people fraudulently claiming benefits using false identity documents.

"The agency holds fairly regular surgeries at gurdwaras [Sikh places of worship] in Southhall and Hounslow, as well as working closely with charities in the area – such as United Sikhs – with the aim of helping migrants who wish to go home voluntarily. Since those surgeries began, around 170 people have returned to India and the majority of those were of no fixed abode."

However, Edwards said there was no reason to believe that the men were trafficked.

Regarding legitimate migrants, Edwards told The Pavement: “We only have powers to deal with those who are unlawfully in the UK or subject to immigration controls, so we don't have powers to arrest people who are sleeping rough... [But] we work closely with the local authorities, police, charities and community groups who could offer assistance in those cases – we're just one of a number of agencies involved".