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2020 Highlights: Lewisham council refuses to comply with Home Office rules which mean rough sleepers can be deported

After continued pressure from and collaboration with community groups, Lewisham council has refused to comply with the Home Office’s new immigration rules that can lead to rough sleepers being deported.

The government enacted the laws on December 1, despite local authorities and charities’ concerns of the impact they could have on rough sleepers in need of support.

After working closely with local community groups the Lewisham council has announced it will not collaborate with the new “draconian” rules, claiming they “put lives at risk.”

Cabinet member for housing and planning, Cllr Paul Bell, and cabinet member for democracy, refugees and accountability, Cllr Kevin Bonavia, said: “The Government’s decision to make rough sleeping a legal ground to cancel or refuse permission to stay in the UK represents a cruel attack on the most vulnerable in our society.

“As we enter into the coldest months of the year, these new rules risk deterring rough sleepers from seeking the help they need and threaten to put lives at risk.

“Lewisham council will not collaborate with the Home Office in enforcing these draconian measures.

“As a council, we are committed to ending rough sleeping in Lewisham and ensuring we are an open, welcoming and inclusive borough.

“We believe these changes are discriminatory and undermine our efforts to tackle rough sleeping.

“We will continue to support the Greater London Authority in lobbying the government to immediately reverse these changes.”

But a Home Office spokesman defended the Government’s move.

He said: “For the small minority of migrant rough sleepers who continue to refuse government and local authority support and repeatedly engage in persistent anti-social behaviour, the new immigration reforms mean they could lose their right to be in the UK.

“This would be a last resort measure and initially individuals would be asked to leave voluntarily with government support. In the event that they refuse, we may take the step to remove them.”

The spokesman added how the Government has made clear that no one should be without a roof over their head.