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Redbridge Council urges government to change immigration policy following death of rough sleeper

PUBLISHED: 12:25 21 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:59 21 September 2018

Joanne. Photo: Aaron Walawalkar

Joanne. Photo: Aaron Walawalkar

Archant

The tragic death of a rough sleeper has prompted the council to write to the government and urge it reform its immigration policy.

Labour Cllr Farah Hussain, cabinet member for housing and homelessness, shared the story of the tragic death of a rough sleeper, referred to only as Sanjeev to protect his privacy, during a full council meeting at Redbridge Town Hall, in High Road, last night (September 20).

Her speech came as councillors debated a Labour-backed motion calling on chief executive Andy Donald to write to the prime minister and communities secretary to change its policy on those who cannot access benefits due to their immigration status - known as having “no recourse to public funds”.

It also called for more funding to address homelessness.

“Sanjeev was from Punjab in India and paid traffickers to get into the UK,” Cllr Hussain said.

“They destroyed his documents when he arrived.”

She spoke of how he repeatedly attempted to return to India but was unable to prove his identity to the High Commission.

Unable to claim government assistance, he relied on The Welcome Centre’s services for seven years and a Redbridge charity was helping him to submit an application to regularise his status.

“Before it could be submitted Sanjeev died tragically on the street from a combination of alcohol abuse and poor health,” she said.

For around 40 minutes councillors debated amendments the wording of the letter tabled by the opposition.

The edits removed sentences attributing the rise in rough sleeping Conservative policies.

It also reduced the overall estimate of rough sleepers in Redbridge from 65, according to official figures released in January, to 55.

Conservative group leader Cllr Linda Huggett said: “I’m taking it as fact that as councillors here we are all determined to help the most vulnerable in our society in break the cycle of homeless.”

She added: “We need to recognise that there are very complex issues – it is really about the underlying problems, they also need to be dealt with to help turn their lives around.”

She highlighted the governments’ recently announced £1 million Rough Sleepers Fund, their extension of the homelessness reduction act and overall investment of £1.2 billion in “tackling homelessness and rough sleeping”.

Cllr Boateng highlighted some of the “complex” factors causing the rise in rough sleeping as “psychoactive substances,” and “housing management issues”.

She added: “All we are hearing is ‘Conservative’, ‘Conservative’ when there is much more the Labour administration could be doing.”

The motion was voted through with 44 in favour and 11 against, while the amendments were rejected.

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