Leading refugee charity condemns Home Office use of shelters to deport rough sleepers

Charity says shelters must remain a "safe place" for vulnerable people.

A homeless person sheltering under a concrete wall

A leading refugee charity has condemned reports that the Home Office has infiltrated refugee centres for the homeless in order to gather information used by immigration enforcement.

Speaking to Left Foot Forward, Director of Advocacy at the Refugee Council Dr Lisa Doyle said the idea that homeless peoples’ access to essential services is being “compromised” by Home Office officials who exploit their access to these services as a means to deport them is “deeply concerning”.

According to reports, Home Office teams in London are being allowed to run sessions in spaces that are intended to be safe havens for homeless people during which they collect information used by immigration enforcement.

Attendees are reportedly assured the sessions are not offered in order to aid immigration control and in some cases are told that attending will help them get financial support.

Dr. Doyle said: “People who have no place to call home and are forced to sleep rough are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Homelessness charities and shelters must remain the safe places for vulnerable people they are designed to be. Home Office processes should remain entirely separate from this.”

Doyle also called on the government to ensure that it does more to ensure that vulnerable homeless people also have access to “free, impartial and good quality legal advice in order to make relevant immigration applications, including for asylum”.

According to The Guardian, the Salvation Army, Sikh gurdwaras and a Chinese community support centre are among the bodies allowing Home Office teams to operate in their homeless shelters.

The Salvation Army was approached for comment.

Joe Evans is a freelance journalist and editor. He is on Twitter: @joeevanswrites

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