Liberty exposes secret data-sharing deal between Greater London Authority and Home Office to deport rough sleepers

20 August 2017

Human rights organisation Liberty has discovered the Greater London Authority (GLA) granted the Home Office secret access to a mapping tool allowing them to monitor and locate rough sleepers on the basis of their nationality.

Freedom of Information requests have revealed that Home Office immigration enforcement had access to an interactive map coordinated by the GLA for six months from September 2016.

Home Office access was revoked in February 2017 – but only after partner organisations found out and raised concerns.

The Home Office is currently removing European Union nationals sleeping rough in London on the grounds that they are ‘abusing’ or ‘misusing’ their EU freedom of movement rights – a practice that has been government policy since May 2016. Liberty believes there is a pattern of ‘collective expulsions’, with Eastern Europeans a targeted group.

This is the latest in a string of discoveries of hidden data-sharing arrangements between the Home Office and other public bodies designed to aid removals at any cost.

A hostile environment for vulnerable migrants

The GLA’s Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) database is populated by homelessness outreach groups and holds information about people sleeping rough in London.

In 2015, the Authority developed a tool which maps CHAIN data and can be filtered by geographical area and recorded characteristics – including nationality.

Emails revealed by Liberty under the Freedom of Information Act show the Home Office was secretly granted access to the map last September after persistent demands.

The Home Office first requested access in May 2015 – just one month before the Department for Education (DfE) agreed to share details of 1,500 schoolchildren with it each month with the express purpose of creating “a hostile environment” for undocumented migrants.

A similar arrangement exists with NHS Digital, which is required to hand over personal patient details to the Home Office on request to help track down suspected immigration offenders.

Like today’s revelation, these data-sharing deals have also only come to light thanks to leaks and Freedom of Information requests.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is currently discussing a new memorandum of understanding with the Home Office to end street homelessness in London, which will specifically set out data-sharing arrangements. It is not known when or if this will be published.

Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said: “Since Theresa May first boasted of creating a hostile environment for migrants back in 2012, vulnerable foreigners have been systematically targeted by a Government obsessed with deportation, whatever the human cost.

“Children have been kept away from schools. Pregnant women and others in need of medical help are avoiding seeking it. Now even people forced to sleep on the streets will be frightened to seek support. Who knows where else the Home Office’s poisonous tentacles have reached?

“There is a crisis of compassion in our political system and it needs to be exposed and undone. The Government must come clean and end these secret deals – or we will look to challenge them in court.”

 

Contact the Liberty press office on 02073783656, 07973831128 or pressoffice@liberty-human-rights.org.uk

 

Notes to editors

Freedom of Information responses:

1. GLA Freedom of Information Act response

2. GLA FOIA attached correspondence (GLA / HOME OFFICE Redacted) – images of the map are included on pages 12, 13 and 19

3. GLA FOIA attached correspondence (GLA / HO / DCLG / MOPAC Redacted)