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Communities Minister says immigration rule ‘devoid of compassion and fairness’  

Housing Rights welcomes the  Minister for Communities’ statement firmly opposing Home Office immigration measures, which allow deportation of people who need permission to be in the UK if they are sleeping rough. Minister Hargey denounced the policy as “...inhumane... devoid of compassion and fairness. 

Immigration rules penalise rough sleepers 

Recently introduced immigration measures, set out in Section 4 of Part 9 of the Immigration Rules, give Home Office caseworkers the power to refuse or revoke a person’s permission to be in the UK where they are satisfied that the person: 

  • Has been rough sleeping in the UK, and 
  • Has repeatedly refused offers of suitable support, and 
  • Has engaged in persistent antisocial behaviour. 

Concerns that new rules punish vulnerable people and put them at increased risk 

The implementation of this provision in NI punishes rough sleepers for circumstances that are beyond their control. It risks undermining trust between vulnerable people and the organisations who are there to support them, such as the Housing Executive and street-outreach agencies.   

The Department for Communities plays a vital role in efforts to support vulnerable migrants. It was key in ensuring accommodation was provided for rough sleepers with no recourse to public funds during the COVID-19 pandemic and is involved in a working group focused on issues impacting people without access to public funds, managed by the NI Strategic Migration Partnership. These new immigration rules could undermine this important work. 

Minister for Communities firmly opposes Home Office approach to rough sleeping 

Housing Rights strongly supports Minister Hargey’s statement of refusal to cooperate with the changed rules and her assertion that: “The very few people sleeping rough here need our help to resolve their issues and move on with their lives, not face threats of deportation. Deporting them to an uncertain future in another country is no way to address rough sleeping, it is a failure to address rough sleeping. The decision to remove non-nationals for simply rough sleeping is an inhumane policy devoid of compassion and fairness.” 

The Minister went on to say: 

“I will have no part in it. I have told the organisations that my department funds my view on this and I know I have their support on that... My department will continue to work closely with the Housing Executive to monitor how the Home Office policy affects those who are rough sleeping here... The Housing Executive and homeless providers will also continue to ensure that any person wherever possible who is rough sleeping is engaging with support services, because it is the right thing to do, and because now more so than ever, it will protect them from this ill-conceived and cruel policy.” 

This article was written on 17 September 2021. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.