Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Sending 'em back

November 12 2009
The London Delivery Board has plans to deport or section London‘s rough sleepers A new scheme to remove some rough sleepers has begun in London Homeless people who refuse to leave London could be sectioned or deported in a new 'tough love' approach agreed by senior housing figures. The heavy-handed tactic is being endorsed by the London Delivery Board, a partnership established by the mayor which aims to end rough sleeping in London by 2012. Chaired by the mayor's director of housing, Richard Blakeway, the board comprises senior level representatives from influential voluntary and public sector bodies. The board's aim is to develop a "detailed action plan" to eradicate homelessness in the capital ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games as part of the government's national rough sleeping strategy. According to the board, 15 per cent of rough sleepers in the capital (around 2,500) are from Central or Eastern Europe, and 35 per cent of all rough sleepers have mental health problems. As a result, it plans to section those deemed to be "unwell" and deport migrants who have a criminal past or are not "exercising their treaty rights" - meaning that they are not seeking work. At a meeting in June, board member Hannah Gregory, of the UK Border Agency, said the agency was in the process of "testing" the removal of rough sleepers who fall into this category. Jeremy Swain, panel member and chief executive of homelessness charity Thames Reach, said: "Where we think someone is unwell, we will try to get them to go voluntarily to a hostel, but ultimately we can have them sectioned. "This happened in north London recently with someone who had been rough sleeping for a number of years. And if there is a foreign national with a criminal history, they will be deported." The large number of Central or European rough sleepers in the capital is a result both of the European Union's expansion in 2004, which brought millions of migrants into Britain, and of the economic meltdown, which has left them without jobs or housing. Most of those who lost their livelihoods have gone home, but others have nothing to go back to and prefer sleeping rough on the streets of Britain to sleeping rough in their home countries. And contrary to what is usually reported, A10 workers (the term used to describe nationals from the 10 EU accession countries) are only entitled to benefits, income and housing support if they registered on arrival in Britain and have worked solidly for 12 months. Their presence, however, threatens to undermine the government's aim to rid the country of rough sleeping, which is why the board is now targeting them - along with those who have mental health problems. In London, Westminster Council has already spent £100,000 sending homeless Eastern European migrants back home, through a pilot scheme with Thames Reach, which provided a one-way bus and air ticket to thousands of people, mainly Polish, who have no access to benefits in this country. Swain said: "They are often better off back home." The London Delivery Board was launched in February by Boris Johnson to eradicate homelessness in the capital, by encouraging greater "cross authority co-operation". Swain added: "It is utterly unacceptable that in 2009 some of London's citizens still have to resort to sleeping on cardboard, huddled in shop doorways and along back alleys. "The mayor has brought together some of the most committed and effective representatives from local and central government and the voluntary sector to form the Delivery Board, and I am very confident that this group will be the vanguard of an unstoppable coalition of interests which will secure London's place in history as the first major capital city where no one needs to sleep rough." The board's new plans were revealed as the Communities and Local Government department published figures showing an apparent drop in homelessness registrations. According to their figures, the total number of households accepted as homeless fell by 32 per cent between April and June this year, compared with the same period the previous year. But Leslie Morphy, chief executive of charity Crisis, said the figures were misleading. "Rough sleeping figures of just 464 nationwide do not reflect the true scale of the problem," she said. "The figure is just an aggregation of snapshots of who happens to be found on the night of a count. We know in London alone in 2008 at least 3,000 people slept rough at some point."