Around 30 homeless people have been sleeping at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 because their immigration status has left them unable to claim benefits – including emergency accommodation – during the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the rough sleepers, a professional woman in her 40s from west Africa, told The Guardian the number of homeless people at the airport had doubled since October.
She said councils ‘refused’ to offer shelter to around 30 rough sleepers at the airport in the London Borough of Hillingdon.
‘I first started sleeping at the airport last October when I lost my accommodation,’ she said. ‘There were 10-15 of us then. Now we have grown to about 30.’
She revealed those sleeping in the terminal were a mix of migrants and British citizens, and that staff at the airport were ‘kind as long as we behave ourselves’.
A letter from Hillingdon council’s chief executive Fran Beasley, dated April 16, revealed the authority claimed to have taken ‘all the necessary steps in assisting known rough sleepers as required’.
In a recent bulletin from councils it was claimed local authorities could be left to front the costs of providing homeless people with no access to benefits somewhere safe to sleep.
It read: ‘A consequence of the Home Office not relaxing restrictions on access to benefits during the pandemic for people subject to the no recourse to public funds condition is that local government is likely to incur additional costs when accommodation and financial support needs to be provided.’
And when approached for comment Hillingdon Council claimed it was the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government that was responsible for rough sleepers at the airport.
‘We have offered accommodation to all of the rough sleepers in other parts of the borough,’ a spokesman said.