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Protest over rough sleepers ‘evicted’ from tunnel near parliament

Metal gate is put in place to block homeless from Tube station underpass where man was found dead last year

25 October, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

Protest at the Westminster tube station tunnel on Tuesday

ACTIVISTS protested in an underpass next to parliament in solidarity with a large group of rough sleepers who have been turfed out.

The protest took place on Tuesday after homeless men and women were “evicted” from the Westminster tube station tunnel that leads to parliament.

A metal gate has been put in place that shuts at 7pm and blocks access to the underpass where a homeless man was found dead last year.

MPs left cards and flowers for Gyula Remes and the tragic circumstances of the death were debated in House of Commons during emotive speeches that led the news debate last December.

But parliament, which has taken over responsibility for the underpass from Transport for London, has taken hardline action against the homeless by installing the gate.

The Labour Homeless Campaign, Extinction Rebellion and the Streets Kitchen homeless project occupied the tunnel on Tuesday holding up a banner declaring “Homelessness is not a Crime” and chanting “this gate has got to go”.

Jane Clendon, volunteer from Streets Kitchen, joined protesters at the occupation.

Gyula Remes was found dead in the tunnel last year

She said: “To have homeless people removed from the underpass near parliament is nothing short of snobbery. That was where some 10 to 15 people were sleeping and a place they could call home.This was a settled community with no complaints around anti-social behaviour. Housing is a human right.

“To evict people to the street takes away safety, light, warmth and security which immediately impacts on physical health.”

The protests this week follow after Rose Hudson-Wilkin, chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, said there was an “ongoing stench” from people sleeping in the underpass and called for something to be done.

The homeless people have written back to her saying their lives had become unmanageable since they were expelled from the underpass, “the closest thing we had to a home”.

A spokesman for the Labour Homeless Campaign said: “This tunnel is a microcosm of the situation across the country, where people experiencing homelessness are not just being denied support, but they’re being stigmatised, criminalised and denied access to public space when they have nowhere else to go.

“We’ve organised a series of protests in the Westminster tunnels in solidarity with the rough sleepers evicted.

“If they are going to forcibly move people on from the closest place some can call home, there needs to be other options. The provision is not there.”

According to the Office for National Statistics, 726 homeless people died in England and Wales last year, up from 600 in 2017.

A statement from UK Parliament said: “We are in the process of transferring ownership of the area to parliament and have installed a pass-activated gate to better manage the area for those entering the estate.

“We continue to engage with partners on addressing the difficult issue of rough sleeping in and around the station constructively and ­sympathetically.”

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