By Grainne Cuffe, local democracy reporter
Lambeth Council will refuse to enforce Home Office rules that mean people can be deported if they sleep rough.
Changes to the Government’s Immigration Rules in December 2020 introduced rough sleeping as grounds to take people’s right to stay in the UK away.
In April, the rules were changed to clarify that permission “may only be refused or cancelled where a person has repeatedly refused suitable offers of support and engaged in persistent anti-social behaviour”.
But Lambeth Council approved a motion on Wednesday night (July 21) to “support refugees to make Lambeth their home”, which included refusing to work with the Home Office on the new rules and to back the #SupportdontDeport campaign.
The campaign from homeless charities demands that the Government scraps the “damaging new rules immediately”.
The Labour motion was approved with an amendment from the Green Party, which increased the number of child refugees the council has pledged to resettle to 100.
Members also agreed to refuse to allow a Home Office officer to be embedded in the council’s No Recourse to Public Funds service.
They agreed to ensure Lambeth is a place of sanctuary for refugees, to ensure no child in the borough is denied free school meals because of their immigration status, and to work with the NHS to make sure undocumented migrants can safely access Covid vaccines.
The amended motion pledged to write to the Home Secretary asking for an extension to the deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme and called on the Government to end the hostile environment.
Councillor Martin Tiedemann, proposing the motion, said: “Today there are still many around the world who see this country as a place of opportunity, freedom, and sanctuary.
“The triple threat of conflict, climate, and Covid mean thousands continue to leave their homes, embark on dangerous journeys through deserts and across seas, and to send their children unaccompanied across borders in the hope that they might have a better, safer life here.”
He said the immigration system under the Conservatives is “devoid of compassion and competence”.
“We will ensure that this council, rather than exacerbating the hostile environment by collaborating with the Home Office, instead offers sanctuary and support to migrants and refugees,” he added.
Cllr Scott Ainslie, deputy leader of the opposition, said the Green group backed the Labour motion.
He said: “This Government is looking to arrest its way out of a crisis, in far too many cases detaining people in appalling conditions.”
Conservative Cllr Briggs said it was Labour who introduced the hostile environment.
“The point about immigration is that someone has to make really unpleasant decisions about who can stay and who has to leave.
“We cannot open the doors to the whole world, even though we would like to,” he said.
Cllr Sonia Winifred, Lambeth council cabinet member for equalities and culture said the council has “already committed to welcoming an additional 38 families to our borough in the coming years”.
She continued: “Our motion rejects any prospect of the council supporting or adhering to Government policies that are hostile to our communities.
“Lambeth Labour is on the side of our communities and we will continue to use all our powers and resources to make Lambeth a welcoming place for all, campaigning against the Government’s treatment of our communities and celebrating the diversity that makes our borough such a special place.”
The Home Office has been contacted for comment.
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