London authorities refuse to cooperate in targeting of rough sleeping migrants

4 December 2020: Freemovement: London authorities refuse to cooperate in targeting of rough sleeping migrants

This week Immigration Rule changes targeting rough sleeping migrants came into force. The Home Office has confirmed that the new Rules will not be enforced until official guidance is published, but the changes have been met with defiance across the board. 

In particular, the Greater London Authority (GLA) has stated that it will not cooperate with the Home Office on this issue:

rather than supporting people to come off the streets, these new rules will punish rough sleepers simply for not having a home. Therefore, the GLA and its commissioned services will not collaborate with such draconian measures.

“Commissioned services” refers to the Combined Homelessness and Information Network, or CHAIN, a multi-agency database recording information about those sleeping on the streets across London. Outreach teams, accommodation providers and other homelessness organisations add data to the CHAIN database.

The GLA says it is prohibiting any organisations trusted with CHAIN data from communicating it to the Home Office. Failure to abide by this may see the organisation’s access being withdrawn. 

The reasoning is that CHAIN is for supporting rough sleepers, not deporting them. The move also comes in the context of past criticism of councils and homelessness charities for helping the Home Office to round up rough sleepers from EU countries. 

Whether in practice this makes much difference to the Home Office’s ability to target rough sleepers is another matter. But these acts of defiance certainly send a powerful message. It will be interesting to see whether other regions follow London’s lead.

This is the original concern:

The new rough sleeping rules

From 1 December 2020 Home Office caseworkers will, under Part 9 of the Rules (“Grounds for Refusal”), be able to refuse permission to stay or cancel any permission held by a person who has been rough sleeping:

9.21.1. Permission to stay may be refused where the decision maker is satisfied that a person has been rough sleeping in the UK.

9.21.2. Where the decision maker is satisfied that a person has been rough sleeping in the UK any permission held by the person may be cancelled.

Rough sleeping is defined elsewhere in the Rules as “sleeping, or bedding down, in the open air” or in “other places not designed for habitation”. It seems historic rough sleeping (“has been”) may fall under these provisions as well.

Fortunately these rules will not apply to very many people. Paragraph 9.1.1 excludes, for instance, asylum seekers and those who fall under the private life categories of the Rules (paragraphs 276ADE to 276DH) from the scope of Part 9. But however limited its scope, these changes make some very vulnerable people liable to enforcement action for circumstances they cannot help.

Public Interest Law Centre: Understanding the new immigration rules targeting non UK-national rough sleepers
What’s new?
The government has announced changes to the Immigration Rules to make rough sleeping a ground for refusal or cancellation of permission to stay in the UK. The changes are due to come into force on December 1st 2020.
What do these changes mean?

Some non-UK nationals could have their visas cancelled if they sleep rough. If they are applying for a visa, their application could be refused on this basis.

Who will the new rules affect?
The rules may affect:

  • people on work, visitor and student visas
  • some victims of trafficking and modern slavery
  • people with UK ancestry visas
  • a number of other categories of migrant, including EU citizens who do not apply to the EU Settlement Scheme before June 30th 2021. They could also affect new arrivals from the EU after December 31st 2020.

The new rules will not apply to: most refugees and asylum seekers; anyone applying to remain in the UK on the basis of their private life under Article 8 ECHR within the Rules; family members applying for leave under Appendix FM; people with indefinite leave to remain; former members of the UK Armed Forces and their family members; and applicants to the EU Settlement Scheme.

How can I find out more? This information sheet is neither comprehensive nor a substitute for legal advice. If you or anyone you support is concerned about the new rules, please contact PILC at

The factsheet is here: