Immigration status forces Brent homeless back on the streets

Rough sleeper Marcus Francis

Rough sleeper Marcus Francis is appealing to Brent Council for help - Credit: Marcus Francis

A rough sleeper is pleading with Brent Council to give him shelter while his immigration application is processed.

Marcus Francis was one of 37 men told to leave the Wembley Euro Hotel, in Elm Road, on March 31 and told to "make their own arrangements".

The homeless men had been housed under the severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) since January.

After being back on the street, the 31-year-old was given three days at the hotel by the council from April 9-12, but he has been rough sleeping again since then.

"They didn't offer me alternative accommodation. On the Monday they knocked on my door and said 'you have to go'. Three days it's kind of ridiculous really. I didn't even have a good nights sleep because I was always thinking about the deadline.

"I have nowhere to go so I've just been floating around really."

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Marcus moved to the UK from Trinidad to live with his father following the death of his mother when he was 13.

He is not able to live with his father and his family in their one-bed flat in Wembley, but he is getting assistance with his immigration application from lawyers from the Immigration Advice Service (IAS).

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He is also being supported by Brent North MP Barry Gardiner's office.

"I'm getting all this help, everyone is working on it, but in the meantime, what do I do? It's all really getting to me," Marcus added:

"I've been sleeping in the cold in parks, going on the buses, sleeping behind buildings. 

"My nights consist of trying not to be around the wrong company of friends because that's the times I tend to see a lot of them etcetera, and trying to kill me.

"I'm trying not to fall back into drinking and smoking to get through the night."

Marcus admits he "didn't really understand" his immigration status as he went to college.

He held a number of jobs including labouring, chef work and football coaching and had a national insurance number. He also signed on for a while.

"It's all a bit weird," he said.

He spent seven months in a detention centre in Harmondsworth on his 27th birthday and four months a year later "after a random stop and search" revealed he had no right to stay. He was later released from the centre. 

"It's the worst place. You don't know what's happening. It's like being jailed but you don't know what for," he said.

"I came here as a minor when my mum passed away. They said: 'We can't really send you back, you've spent half your life here.' 

"That's when I knew fully what was going on."

A Brent Council spokesperson declined to say whether Marcus would be offered accommodation.

They said: "Housing offers have been made to those who qualify under homelessness legislation, however five people were not eligible for housing assistance because of their immigration status.

“The council has tried to help these individuals, for example by offering referrals for legal support and to help mediate with family members.

"We also provided emergency accommodation to those in need again in April when the SWEP was activated due to temperatures dropping below zero.

“The difficulty is that the current homelessness legislation, which we have to work to, excludes people from accessing housing support on the basis of their immigration status.

"This is something that urgently needs to be addressed at a national level, otherwise tragic situations like this will continue.”

A Home Office spokesperson said it does not "routinely comment on individual cases".

They said individuals with unresolved immigration statuses cannot access the local authority support they may be entitled to.

“The Home Office offers the Rough Sleeping Support Service, so local authorities can establish if a rough sleeper has access to public funds, and help them resolve any outstanding immigration applications," they said.

They said local authorities can voluntarily use the service to highlight outstanding immigration cases so that they can be prioritised by the Home Office.  

"We are only able to detain individuals where there is a realistic prospect of their removal, and if they have no right to remain in the UK," they said.

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