Thousands of homeless EU citizens unable to vote in elections

Thousands of homeless EU citizens unable to vote in elections

While European institutions are urging people to go out and vote, for many living on the street, this is not possible.

A European group of organisations working with the homeless, Feantsa, says some 900,000 people are living rough or in temporary accommodation.

Most of them are EU citizens, many of whom are barred from voting for administrative reasons.

“You need to have a permanent address where you are registered, in order to vote. So, if homeless people live in temporary accommodation, or shelters, or in the streets, it is difficult for them to register at a permanent address,” says Feantsa policy officer, María José Aldanas.

It is not only people living on the streets that face this problem. Those whose housing situations are complicated, also struggle to register.

In Brussels, they gather at the citizen’s lobby, the Syndicat des Immenses, to offer one another help.

Joëlle, a member of the group, says she would like to vote in the European elections, but cannot because she does not have an address.

“I lost my accommodation, and I don't even have an identity card anymore, because my papers were stolen,” she says.

“I am Belgian, but I do not exist as a citizen of my own country. So, if we don't exist from an administrative point of view, well we can't vote.”

In theory, people without an official address could register for one at a “foster home”, but the process is often long and complicated.

Roberto Marzipani, a fellow member of the Syndicat des Immenses, explains why he has not received his convocation to vote.

“I cannot return to the official administrative address that is still my reference address, because they no longer let me enter the building. It is a rest home in Tour et Taxis. I was thrown out by the police,” he says.

In addition, voting is often low on the list of priorities for people who are facing hardship, in comparison to more urgent needs.

“The results of the election, the impact of the result of my vote on my personal situation, is infinitely distant. And when you are in an emergency, in survival mode, this is not at all your priority,” says Laurent d’Ursel, secretary of ‘Syndicat des Immenses’.

The European Parliament has been asked to revise the need for a proof of address as a condition in order to vote. But for these elections, the change will come too late.