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Fears sharing rough sleepers' data with Home Office could lead to deportations

PUBLISHED: 13:56 19 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:56 19 July 2019

A rough sleeper on the floors of the Stratford Centre. Picture: Archant

A rough sleeper on the floors of the Stratford Centre. Picture: Archant

Archant

Newham Council is refusing to share rough sleepers' personal data with the Home Office over fears it could lead to deportations.

The Government started the rough sleeping support service (RSSS) last year and it is currently being trialled.

The programme asks charities to pass on homeless people's personal information directly to the Home Office without consent.

Human rights charity Liberty, which obtained information about the data sharing scheme through a freedom of information requests, believes the scheme could lead to the deportation of non-UK rough sleepers.

Newham records some of the highest homelessness rates in the UK, with 14,500 people in temporary accommodation in the borough and an estimated 76 sleeping rough.

The council recently announced the set up of a "homelessness task force" to combat rough sleeping, particularly in the Stratford Centre where dozens of people bed down every night.

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Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said: "As the housing crisis in Britain has escalated due to the government's broken housing policy, Newham, and the Stratford Mall in particular, has seen an increase in rough sleeping. The situation is not going to go away.

"As we search for solutions I reiterate my pledge that we will not collude with the Home Office immigration service to further their repugnant hostile environment, which seeks to further marginalise and persecute our most vulnerable residents."

Previous plans to deport EU rough sleepers were deemed unlawful by the high court 18 months ago.

A council spokesman added: "Newham does not and will not allow or encourage our homelessness outreach teams to work with Home Office immigration enforcement teams."

Newham is believed to be one of eight London councils who have refused calls to share rough sleeping data with the Home Office.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are disappointed with the councils' statements and have been clear that the RSSS is not using charities or local authorities to target rough sleepers.

"The RSSS was established last year to help non-UK nationals sleeping rough resolve their immigration cases and access the support that they need.

"Charities and local authorities use the service on an entirely voluntary basis and no information is passed to the Home Office for assistance without their knowledge."

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