TEN Europeans have been arrested and threatened with deportation for sleeping rough in an immigration raid branded absurd by campaigners.

Home Office immigration enforcement officers, supported by Sussex Police, swooped on homeless Europeans found in Brighton and Hove city centre.

They detained nine adult men and a woman who all had a legal right to be in the UK. Three of the men were Polish and the others were from Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. The woman was also German.

They were all taken straight to an immigration detention centre on Tuesday before being sent out of the country, apart from the Germans who agreed to leave the UK voluntarily.

The Home Office said it was "unacceptable for anyone to come to the UK with the intention of sleeping rough or to beg on the streets to support themselves."

Officials at the government department called sleeping rough an abuse of free movement rights under EU law if it happens within the first three months of their arrival in the UK.

But Richard Williams, chairman of Brighton refugee charity Sanctuary on Sea, said: "It's absurd to say anyone comes to the UK with the intention of sleeping rough. I don't think anyone ever chooses to do that.

"I find it hard to believe people are coming here with a view to sleeping rough.

"They come here to visit or because they intend to find work. People can lose their jobs.

"But it's not good that anyone is rough sleeping though, and perhaps the best outcome is for them to go home.

"They may have wanted to go back home but don't have the fare. But we won't know that. I wouldn't want people to jump to conclusions on this.

"People end up sleeping rough for all sorts of different reasons.

"Some people can become vulnerable very quickly when they become homeless so it's important they get help.

"It is not a new thing that we have Europeans sleeping rough on the streets of Brighton and Hove, but it is perhaps a new thing that this rule is being acted on."

Neither the Home Office or Sussex Police were last night able to confirm what prompted the raid.

A Home Office spokeswoman added: "We will take action, where appropriate, against European Economic Area (EEA) nationals who refuse to find alternative accommodation.

"We work closely with councils and homelessness outreach services to ensure that those who are vulnerable receive the care they need."