Guest editors: Mattia Bosio, Legal Officer at FEANTSA & Mauro Striano, Policy Officer at FEANTSA
In several European cities, a significant proportion of homeless people are mobile EU citizens who, in some cases, do not have access to publicly funded shelters and are pushed to sleep rough. In the United Kingdom, destitute EU mobile citizens who sleep rough are facing expulsion. This is happening on the basis of the new European Economic Area (EEA) Regulations adopted by the UK and the guide published by the UK Home Office on the administrative removal of EU citizens and their family members, whereby rough sleeping may be intended as misuse of a right to reside.
Under the interpretation of EEA Regulations provided in the Guide, rough sleeping is appropriate grounds to justify the administrative removal of a mobile EU citizen. According to this approach, mobile EU citizens who are working or seeking work in the UK, or even who have been in the UK for less than 3 months, may be subject to administrative removal solely because they are sleeping rough.
In the view of FEANTSA, and UK-based Migrants’ Rights Network and Praxis, UK Home Office policy is justifying the removal of rough sleepers on the basis of article 35 of Directive 2004/38, which entitles Member States to adopt necessary measures in cases of abuses of rights. We consider that this interpretation, whereby rough sleeping is a form of misuse of a right to reside, is not in line with the notion of abuse of rights existing at EU level under Directive 2004/38. Therefore, the United Kingdom, by considering rough sleeping as a practice that constitutes misuse of a right to reside, is failing to properly implement at national level article 35 of the Directive.
For those vulnerable EU citizens and their family members (including children) who do not have sufficient resources to afford adequate accommodation and are bound to sleep rough, this interpretation is bizarre and cruel. It seems that rather than rough sleeping being taken as a terrible experience for an individual to go through, the UK government is treating it as a potential way to take advantage of the system.
These are some of the most vulnerable people in society and they should be supported, not criminalised. The punitive approach has been jeopardising the living situations of that small minority of mobile EU citizens who have not succeeded and for whom moving to another Member State has led to destitution. We believe instead that a combination of advice and support activities are needed to properly help homeless mobile EU citizens,
We are therefore confident that the European Commission, in the light of social values and principles of the EU and of the EU fundamental rights established in the Charter, will undertake all necessary steps to clarify the UK’s policies on the free movement of destitute EU citizens.
Be Fair Europe, Stand Up for Homeless People.