As of 1 December 2020, Home Office caseworkers can refuse an application for leave to remain or can curtail leave on the basis that a person has been rough sleeping in the UK. The Immigration Rules general grounds for refusal now includes the following:
- Rough sleeping in the UK
- 9.21.1. Permission to stay may be refused where the decision maker is satisfied that a person has been rough sleeping in the UK.
- 9.21.2. Where the decision maker is satisfied that a person has been rough sleeping in the UK any permission held by the person may be cancelled.
The definition in the Rules is “sleeping, or bedding down, in the open air” or in “other places not designed for habitation”.
While the rules will not apply to everyone subject to immigration control, they are likely to cause an already extremely vulnerable group to be reluctant to access support in case the Home Office is notified that they are homeless and curtails their leave or refuses their next application.
This new ground of refusal, buried in a lengthy and complex statement of changes, comes at a time of extraordinary job insecurity. Domestic violence support organisations have reported a surge in calls. The weather is getting worse and many people face an uncertain and difficult winter with the prospect of a recession still looming for 2021. Many people’s immigration status restricts them from accessing benefits or other support that could act as a safety net. We are therefore very pleased to see legal challenges being made and local councils refusing to assist the Home Office with this cruel policy.
Homelessness is not something that happens by choice, or something a person should be punished for. If the Home Office wants to tackle homelessness, and take the ‘compassionate’ stance promised by Home Secretary Priti Patel, this ground for refusal should be removed, as should the restriction on people accessing public funds, and the restriction on renting for those who no longer have leave to remain. The Home Office has said the ground would be used ‘sparingly’. This demonstrates an awareness of the inhumanity of the policy. Compassion would be to remove it and implement proper policies to support individuals who find themselves without a safe place to live.