Brussels questions legality of deporting EU homeless from UK
Since the referendum, the rate of deportations of EU citizens from Britain has risen dramatically, especially that of rough sleepers, with 5000 EU citizens having been deported from the UK in the past 12 months.
Although the UK was in the middle of its divorce process from the EU, at present it remained a member and according to legal experts some of those deportations were illegal under EU law.
According to the Free Movement Directive (2004), any EU citizen had the right to live in another Member State for 3 months if he or she possessed a valid passport or ID card and longer residence if they could demonstrate sufficient resources at their disposal such that the individual would not be a burden on the host state's welfare system.
A spokesman for the European Commission told The Independent that the UK's deportation policy was under scrutiny. If found to be illegal, Westminster would be asked to cease such deportations or face a penalty from the European Court of Justice.
As a result of the the immigration regulations introduced by then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2016, the number of EU citizens who had been deported had increased from 973 in 2010 to 4,754 in 2016.
The new regulation left open the possibility of deporting homeless people for "misusing" EU treaty rights. Lara ten Caten, lawyer for Liberty charity said: "This unlawful treatment of EU citizens who have fallen on hard times must now come to an end."
According to The Independent, there were 26% more removals of EU citizens in the first three months of 2017 than over the same stretch of 2016.
Theresa May vowed at the time to create a "hostile environment for illegal immigrants".
Yet for some observers, the risk was that it would also engender hostility towards the rest of the immigrants despite May promising in June 2017 that: "EU citizens are an integral part of the economic, cultural and social fabric of our country and I have always been clear that I want to protect their rights."