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Council will share 'limited number of' rough sleepers' details with Home Office

PUBLISHED: 12:55 25 July 2019

Tower Hamlets says it will share details if a homeless person is considered dangerous or is wanted for a serious crime abroad. Picture: Archant

Tower Hamlets says it will share details if a homeless person is considered dangerous or is wanted for a serious crime abroad. Picture: Archant

Archant

Tower Hamlets Council has said it will share the data of rough sleepers with the Home Office in "a very limited number of cases" despite fears the information could lead to deportations.

Councils across the country, including neighbouring Newham, have refused to share data with the government's new Rough Sleeping Support Service (RSSS). The scheme started 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 freedom of information requests, believes the scheme could lead to the deportation of non-UK rough sleepers.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs said: "We share the concern that data passed from councils to the Home Office could be used as part of the 'hostile environment' policy.

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"We do not routinely share information about rough sleepers in our borough and have no plans to do so.

"However, it is important that in a very limited number of cases, such as where an individual is deemed to be dangerous, known to be wanted for serious offences overseas, or is seriously unwell, we are able to work with the Home Office to ensure their safety as well as that of our residents and importantly, other rough sleepers."

Eight London councils are believed to 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."

Mayor of neighbouring Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz said: "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."

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