Immigrants set up illegal camp in Hyde Park
Last Updated: 1:58am BST 05/04/2007
Unemployed immigrants from eastern Europe are sleeping in tents in the middle of Hyde Park. Groups of Romanians and Bulgarians seeking work in London are taking the desperate measures because they are homeless and penniless.
The immigrants refuse to return home, even though Westminster council has offered to pay for their travel
The men and women, who have no money to pay for accommodation, are typically choosing secluded wooded spots in the park and setting up camp once it gets dark.
Many will pitch their tents in one spot for a few nights, then pack up and move to another. They say they are able to get away with camping in the park, which is illegal, because there are no wardens and they rarely see any police.
The immigrants refuse to return home, even though Westminster council has offered to pay for their travel, because they are convinced they will be able to find work.
Piles of packed down cardboard boxes, empty food packets, drinks cartons and discarded plastic bags litter the area that the immigrants have vacated.
The camp has sprung up despite regulations limiting the number of low-skilled workers from the two countries being employed in Britain.
Nicolai Haji, 31, from Romania, said he had spent several weeks camping in the park. “Life is hard in Romania,” he said. “There is very little work for people like me with no qualifications and no chance to earn much money. Sleeping in this park is not ideal, but it is free and better than returning home.
“I came here to earn money for my family. I will find work like many of my friends have and until then I will be happy with my tent.
“It will be summer soon so the weather will be hotter and the nights will be warmer. I think it will be a beautiful place to stay but at the moment it is cold.” Tsvetana Jovtchev, 27, from Bulgaria, said it was much more difficult to find work in England than she expected.
She said: “I have not been here for long, just a couple of weeks, but I haven't found a job yet. It is upsetting but I do not want to go home.
“Many of my friends are homeless like me and we all stick together and we all really want to find work, but it is hard. We are homeless because there is no choice.
“I will stay here for the summer and, if I still haven't found a job by the end, then I will have to go home.”
Emerich Dinu, 22, from Romania, said many people slept in the park because there was no one to stop them. He said: “There are lots of people doing what I do, even if someone catches you, you just move on to a different spot.
“If you sleep under the trees it is quite warm and not windy. It is quite comfortable.
“I don't want to be here forever, but there is nothing else for me to do.”
26 September 2006: Bulgaria and Romania to join EU next year
19 September 2006: Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants to be restricted