On 22nd October 2020, the Home Office published a new statement of changes to the immigration rules (HC 813) with a number of amendments and appendices added. Changes to Tier 2 visas, Overseas Business visas, general grounds for refusal, visitor rules, English language requirements and BNO visas are amongst those which have been updated.
Within the statement of changes, a notable update is the new focus on migrants in the United Kingdom who are sleeping rough. From the new policy changes, it seems this already vulnerable group will face harsher regulations.
At the start of 2020, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised that all individuals sleeping on the streets in the United Kingdom throughout the Coronavirus outbreak would be provided with safety and shelter. This included migrant rough sleepers in the UK. It is evident that these promises have not been kept, and a range of United Kingdom organisations who including Crisis and Migrants Rights Network have confirmed that no real changes have been made.
Many migrant rough sleepers do remain on the streets, and now new policies are being put in place by the Home Office to hinder them, rather than help them.
What are the new rules for migrant rough sleepers?
Under new Grounds For Refusal (Part 9 of the statement of changes), rough sleepers can now be refused permission to remain in the UK, or could have their current visa status cancelled. This is highlighted in the statement of changes:
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.
These rules seem to cover individuals who are currently sleeping outdoors, or those who have done in the past whilst in the United Kingdom. Currently, it seems as though asylum seekers are not included within these rules.
What will the outcomes of this policy be?
The new changes for migrant rough sleepers will put several individuals at even more risk than they currently face. Migrant rough sleepers are already in a precarious position, many more hidden away than other rough sleepers in the United Kingdom out of a fear of being found and picked up by immigration enforcement teams. These new changes from the Home Office will bring this fear much closer to reality for many.
We have seen hostile environment policies such as these ones before, even ones which have had the same aim of stopping migrant rough sleepers. In most cases, these policies lead to an increase in fear and hostility. A lack of compassion from individuals and local councils.
Many individuals have been left unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic, with no place to turn. Many have been forced to sleep outside, with no help or support from the UK government. In these unsettling times, support should be provided for such vulnerable groups.
It is our opinion that in a time when the UK government are increasing their targeting at vulnerable groups, an approach lacking so much compassion should not be taken towards migrant rough sleepers.
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