Homelessness and public spaces / Immigration and migrants' rights

Liberty warns TfL over threats to rough sleepers

Posted on 21 Jun 2021

  • Liberty and Streets Kitchen write to TfL over threatening notices
  • Treatment of rough sleepers may be unlawful
  • Action follows Liberty campaign against treating homelessness as a crime

Liberty has written to Transport for London (TfL) and Camden Council warning that recent threats issued to rough sleepers may breach human rights laws.

In a letter sent today, 16 June, Liberty, on behalf of homeless support group Streets Kitchen, said notices placed outside Warren Street station and other parts of Camden in central London unlawfully threatened people sleeping rough with removal by police or bailiffs.

Streets Kitchen, a grassroots group that works to help anyone experiencing homelessness, said the notices – posted by TfL – were placed next to people sleeping rough in Camden at the end of May.

The notices warned that if the people did not leave the area they would be forcibly removed by police or bailiffs, citing anti-social behaviour laws.

In the letter, Liberty lawyers said that the relevant legal requirements, such as the landowner (TfL) giving people notice before directing them to leave, and the requirement to show evidence of anti-social behaviour, were ignored.

A large proportion of the people targeted were from the Roma community and did not speak English, but the notices were only in English and not explained to them.

In correspondence with Streets Kitchen, Camden Council also said that around the same time people sleeping rough were dispersed under anti-social behaviour powers, though failed to cite any anti-social behaviour.

Liberty lawyer Lara ten Caten said: “If you’re homeless or sleeping rough, local authorities should be there to provide help and support; they should treat you with dignity, not with threats and intimidation. This is a shocking way of dealing with an issue that is only likely to become more severe now that the “Everyone In” scheme has closed.

“The pandemic has put many more people at risk of homelessness, and heightened the risks faced by people already sleeping rough. It’s time the Government and local authorities stopped treating homelessness as a crime, and ensured people get the support they need.”

A spokesperson for Streets Kitchen said: “In the seven years that Streets Kitchen has been operating around Camden, we have never seen such a growing predictable crisis on our streets locally and across London.

“Such harsh illegal enforcement policies proposed by TFL and encouraged by Camden Council only serve to highlight the complete failure of the local council and their commissioned homeless services in addressing the growing numbers of people arriving on the streets. Such cruel enforcement policies can never be acceptable. It can never be made a crime to have to sleep on the streets, that blame lies with the central government. Already we have a complete lack of trust with commissioned homeless services and those they are meant to serve through their relationship with the home office. TFL need to be reminded they do not control the streets and should get back into their stations.

“We need Camden Council to be very clear on their current relationship with the home office & cease this with immediate effect with a clear commitment not to criminalise those experiencing homelessness as is occurring much too often in the borough. Homelessness should never be a crime, the fact it exists should be.”

Liberty has campaigned for an end to laws and regulations that criminalise homelessness and rough sleeping. In 2020 Liberty successfully ended a case against Bournemouth Poole and Christchurch Council after the council agreed to scrap parts of a Public Spaces protection Order that targeted people who were rough sleeping and begging.

The human rights group has also campaigned for the 200-year-old Vagrancy Act, to be scrapped, and welcomed a statement from the Housing Minister earlier this year supporting that call.

Contact the Liberty press office on 07973 831 128 or pressoffice@libertyhumanrights.org.uk

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