Hundreds of rough sleepers could sue the Home Office after the High Court ruled it is illegal to target foreigners living on Britain’s streets for deportation.
A judge said the measure, introduced last year, was discriminatory and broke European Union (EU) freedom of movement rules.
The presence of large numbers of mainly Romanian rough sleepers hit the headlines in 2015 when they set up camps near landmarks in the capital, including Marble Arch, washed in public water fountains, and left considerable amounts of litter.
The Home Office said that it was disappointed with the High Court decision but would not appeal, The Times reports.
The department said the policy was a response to “persistent and intentional rough sleeping” by large numbers of central and eastern European migrants who arranged no accommodation.
EU migrants are expected to seek work when they come to the UK, and the rough sleepers were deemed to be in breach of their EU treaty rights.
A left-wing pressure group is already preparing a complaint to the European Commission. https://t.co/BAMDV0sl3Q
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 23, 2017
Immigration enforcement units that implemented the policy worked with local councils, the police, and homelessness charities including St Mungo’s and Thames Reach.
However, campaigners took up the case and argued that the “regular raids” on locations where migrants lived were illegal.
In her ruling, Mrs. Justice Lang said the Home Office was wrong to have used the raids as a chance to verify whether the rough sleepers were abusing their right to reside in another European nation.
She wrote, “the policy was unlawful because rough sleeping could not constitute an ‘abuse of rights’” and “the policy discriminated unlawfully against EEA nationals and rough sleepers and the application of the policy involved unlawful systematic verification.”
The Home Office declined to reveal how many people were detained and deported.
However, Paul Heron, of the Public Interest Law Unit, who brought the case on behalf of three men from Poland and Latvia, said it could be hundreds.
“There are potentially hundreds of claims for damages for unlawful detention,” he told The Times. “We have at least ten clients and other law firms have clients who have been illegally detained.
“Homelessness cannot humanely be dealt with by detaining or forcibly removing homeless people.”