Author:CLAIRE ELLICOT FOR THE DAILY MAIL
Homeless EU migrants are set to receive payouts of thousands of pounds in compensation following a row over deportation.
Ministers will have to compensate rough sleepers who were illegally detained and kicked out of the country.
The Home Office said no further action was being taken against European citizens for rough sleeping after the policy of deporting them was declared illegal by the courts.
In the year to May 2017, 698 homeless EU nationals were targeted and removed from the country. Law firms say at least 45 are pursuing claims that run into the thousands of pounds.
Tomas Lusas from Lithuania was arrested by immigration officers in 2016 after sleeping rough in London. ‘One morning I was woken up in my sleeping bag,’ he told the BBC. ‘There were six or seven officers and they said ‘Home Office’. They took my ID. Two minutes later I was in handcuffs. Two minutes after that I was in a van. I was shouting ‘I’m gonna lose my job if you arrest me today.
‘But nobody listened to me. Nobody allowed me to explain why I was sleeping rough.’
Mr Lusas refused to sign his removal papers and was detained at Brook House immigration centre in Gatwick for 19 days.
‘It was like being in jail,’ he said. ‘Your freedom is taken away. And what kills you is that you don’t know the end of your sentence. I’ve spent nine years of my life in England and I didn’t want to leave just because I was sleeping rough.’
Mr Lusas appealed against his deportation and was successful. He was later awarded more than £10,000 in damages.
EU migrants who are rough sleeping can be deported only if they arrived in a country with the intention of rough sleeping.
But immigration enforcement teams were targeting rough sleepers even if they were in work or had a permanent right of residence.
The policy was halted after a judicial review in December ruled it to be unlawful and discriminatory.
Leonie Hirst, an immigration and public law barrister, said anyone from the EU or the European Economic Area who had been detained or deported in similar circumstances could now make a claim. The EU law is clear and very robust, but the policy was a very flimsy attempt to misuse the law, simply to meet immigration targets,’ she said.
‘It is highly unlikely, particularly given that people were targeted who were working, that this policy has done anything except cost significant amounts of public money.’
Miss Hirst said she had heard evidence that immigration teams were working to quotas.
Mrs Justice Lang ruled in the High Court that the Government was wrong to use raids on locations where European citizens were sleeping rough to verify whether they had the right to be in the country.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘No one should ever have to sleep rough, and this Government is determined to break the homelessness cycle.
‘Local projects across the country are working with non-British rough sleepers, helping them find employment and accommodation or return home where appropriate.
‘We have ceased all relevant investigation and action on the immigration status of EEA citizens because of rough sleeping. Complaints or claims for compensation will be considered on a case-by-case basis.