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Transport for London evicting rough sleepers from public areas in potential breach of law

Exclusive: Notices ordering mainly Roma rough sleepers outside Tube stations to ‘leave the land immediately’ appear to be ‘both unlawful and discriminatory’, says Liberty

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Sunday 20 June 2021 15:54 BST
One of the notices was reportedly placed above the bedding space of a pregnant 20-year-old Romanian woman outside Warren Street station
One of the notices was reportedly placed above the bedding space of a pregnant 20-year-old Romanian woman outside Warren Street station (Streets Kitchen)

Rough sleepers are being evicted from public spaces in a move legal experts say is likely to be unlawful.

Human rights group Liberty has written a letter to Transport for London (TfL) and Camden Council after TfL placed several notices outside Tube stations in Camden ordering people residing there to “leave the land immediately”.

The notices first appeared around 22 May 2021 and have mostly targeted Roma people, according to Streets Kitchen, a homelessness support group.

One of the notices was reportedly placed above the bedding space of a pregnant 20-year-old Romanian woman outside Warren Street station, who says she had not been offered any support and was distressed by the notice as she did not know what it meant or where she was expected to go.

The notice states: “Please treat this notice as a demand by TfL as the occupier and valid for the purposes of section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 that you leave the land immediately.”

It goes on to state that if someone chooses to “ignore” the notice, they will be “forcibly removed by police, bailiffs or a combination of both, and liable to civil and/or criminal prosecution (including a fine and criminal record)”.

The notices have been described as discriminatory by human rights group Liberty (Streets Kitchen)

The notices are also said to have been placed outside Great Portland Street station and around Euston and Tottenham Court Road, which are all located within the borough of Camden.

It is unclear whether all notices were placed on TfL-owned land.

In its letter to TfL and Camden Council, Liberty states that TfL is breaching its obligations under the Human Rights Act by attempting to evict people who have “no choice but to live on the streets”, saying the notices appear to be both unlawful and discriminatory.

It cites concern that the notices are in English only, when the people bedding down in the above areas are “mostly Roma who do not speak English” and therefore “did not understand what the notices meant or what was required of them”.

It also states that the council should be ensuring that TfL acts “in a way that is compliant with the Human Rights Act when placing posters trying to evict people who are sleeping rough within its area”.

A spokesperson for Camden Council told The Independent that the notices were not representative of its approach to managing the problem of rough sleeping.

A TfL spokesperson said the notices were served as part of work it was doing alongside Camden Council, local homelessness services and the Metropolitan Police to try and address problems related to rough sleeping in the Euston Road area.

Citing reports of camping, fires being lit and discarded items on the carriageway and in the underpass, TfL said the “best help” it could give, along with the police and council, was to move people off the streets and connect them with access to support services.

But Liberty lawyer Lara ten Caten said the notices were a “shocking” way of dealing with rough sleeping, which she said was “only likely to become more severe” now that the Everyone In scheme – which saw homeless people on the streets given hotel rooms during the pandemic – has closed.

“If you’re homeless or sleeping rough, local authorities should be there to provide help and support; they should treat you with dignity,” she said.

Jon Glackin, founder of Streets Kitchen, said: “Such cruel enforcement policies can never be acceptable. It can never be made a crime to have to sleep on the streets,” adding: “TfL need to be reminded that they do not control the streets and should get back into their stations.”

The letter from Liberty demands that by 29 June the council and TfL either direct that the notices are removed, and that no further notices are placed, or confirm why they consider such notices to be “legal, proportionate and necessary”.

It also asks that they provide copies of any Equality Impact Assessments they have carried out prior to the notices being posted.

A Camden Council spokesperson said: “Nothing is more important to us than the welfare, safety and rights of every person that we support who is experiencing homelessness.

“We understand that these notices are on land which is owned by TfL. None of the notices are on council-managed land and they are not representative of our approach towards ending rough sleeping.”

A TfL spokesperson said: “No one should be faced with sleeping rough on our streets or on public transport. We are working with Camden Council, Routes off the Streets outreach service, the Fitzrovia Partnership and the Metropolitan Police Service to address rough sleeping along the Euston Road.

“These notices have been served by TfL as part of this work, but we apologise for the tone and any upset caused. We will continue to work with the local borough and with the police as they make decisions on the next steps to be taken.”

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