How King's Lynn views its new arrivals
The influx of immigrants from eastern Europe to Britain's rural towns and villages is provoking mixed reactions among the residents there.
By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent
Published: 9:00AM BST 13 Jun 2010
In the Norfolk town of King's Lynn, long-standing residents have mixed feelings about the scale of immigration from eastern Europe.
Praise for the work ethic of the new arrivals is interspersed with complaints about anti-social behaviour and the pressure that migrants place on public services.
Eddie Excell, on his bicycle looking for work at the town's JobCentre, said the influx had taken work away from locals.
“There are jobs I can't get because they are being done by eastern European immigrants,” said the 29-year-old factory worker, who has been unemployed since September.
“I think the Government needs to stop letting so many foreign people in.”
Among 16 defendants convicted over two days of hearings at the local magistrates' court, two had eastern European names, according to local newspaper reports last week.
A health worker at the town's Queen Elizabeth Hospital said: “A large proportion of my work is due to fights and stabbings. There are a lot of gang problems in that community, particularly Latvians, who wage war on one another.
“I've definitely noticed a change in character to King's Lynn and as a taxpayer I'm not impressed to see them hanging around the town centre drinking in the middle of the day.”
The 46-year-old mother-of-one, who declined to be named, added: “There are also problems with non-English speakers in the classes at school, which tends to slow the whole class down.”
Celia Duke, who has five children aged between one and 20, said: “I think English people feel pushed out in a lot of things.”
The town now has four specialist eastern European grocers. It had none prior to 2004, when Poland and other countries joined the EU and their citizens won the right to live and work in Britain.
Sarbas Imin, a Lithuanian who opened the Kubus supermarket in Norfolk Street two months ago, was wearing an England football shirt and union jack slippers while serving customers.
He said: “There is a big community of Lithuanian people here. I've never had any problems here with locals.”
Many Norfolk residents had only positive remarks to make and one employer said English people simply did not want to accept the work he was offering.
“The workers we have are Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian,” said John Robson, who runs Moat Road Nursery in nearby Terrington St Clement and sells his plants and cut flowers on King's Lynn's impressive Tuesday Market Place.
“Without using that sort of labour we would never get the job done.
“We have had instances where English people have applied for the jobs but clearly don't want to do it. They don't want to prick off plants, say, because they think the hours are too long and the pay isn't enough.”
Another market trader, who declined to be named, added: “While this country pays three million of our own people to stay at home, the eastern Europeans will come.”
Another Lynn resident who commended the new arrivals was Angela Ender, 75, a retired translator who worked in Germany for 30 years.
“You go around King's Lynn today and you hear any language but English,” she said.
“They seem to be working hard and paying their taxes. They also appear to be here to stay because you see the girls with their buggies and their babies.”
Daniel Cox, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “Although there has been an increase in demand for school places in particular, we are confident we will be able to continue to deliver services to our high standards.
“There has been an increase in referrals to our English language support service relating to children who speak eastern European languages.
“However, our specialist service is able to offer support to pupils, teachers and schools and they are awarded additional funding for pupils with English as an additional language.”
Previous surveys have suggested that at some schools in Norfolk, up to a quarter of pupils do not speak English as their first language.
Two years after the EUs eastward expansion, the county council said it had provided extra classes at 262 schools, and that children in Norfolk came from 112 countries and spoke 101 different languages – a level of immigration comparable to Britain's inner cities.
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