Peterborough 'under siege' by migrant camps, locals claim
Unemployed migrants have set up more than a dozen squatting camps in one city, creating pressures on local services, it was claimed.
By Andrew Hough
Published: 7:30AM BST 11 Aug 2010
Workers have been found sleeping rough in 15 squalid dens in woodland and beauty spots across Peterborough, Cambs, locals say.
Several groups have created sites with tents, fires and makeshift shacks in nature reserves, parks, and even the middle of busy roundabouts. Previously residents ahve complained of finding them in back gardens and sheds.
Locals say many areas now resembled rubbish tips, critical services are under more strain while anti-social behaviour was rising.
The majority of the workers appear to be from Eastern Europe, who came to the UK seeking factory jobs and seasonal farm work in the area.
But many have decided to stay in Britain despite losing their jobs following the economic downturn or the end of farming contracts.
Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, labelled the situation “shocking”.
“It is uncomfortable to see this, he said.
Rough sleeping is often associated with problems of anti-social behaviour and is a health threat to rough sleepers themselves.”
He said local authorities and the UK Border Agency were working hard to deal with the problems in the town.
With more than 16,000 migrants moving to the area since 2004, immigrant communities now make up more than two thirds of population growth, council's figures show.
In April the government launched a crackdown on unemployed migrants clearing campsites, sending many home and issuing warnings to those who remained.
Migrants had to prove they were self sufficient and not a burden on the country to avoid being told to leave.
The issue became a theme during the recent election when local councillors wrote to all three main political leaders claiming that rising immigration in the area had fuelled crime and left communities unable to provide key services.
Stewart Jackson, the local MP, called the migrant workers “vagrants” who were a drain on the “indigenous people of Peterborough”.
I don't know how these migrants are surviving sleeping rough on roundabouts and bushes but they are a drain on my constituents and taxpayers, he said.
“If they are not going to contribute to this country, then, as citizens of their home country, they should return there.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “It's completely unacceptable to have unemployed foreign workers camping out in our cities, even on roundabouts.
“Free movement of people within the European Union does not mean this. Those concerned must find a job or go home, with government help if necessary.”
A spokeswoman for Peterborough City Council said 45 migrant workers returned home voluntarily over the past few months.
“We are pleased with the results of the work which has been done so far and will continue to work with those migrant rough sleepers who would like help to be repatriated, she said.
The London-based East European Advice Centre, said many workers came to Britain with false promises of work and accommodation.
“The reason so many stay is that they believe things will turn around pretty quickly. But weeks go by and things get more entrenched and difficult it's a downward spiral, a spokesman said.
“In worst cases we see alcohol and drug abuse, mental health problems, and maybe even crime when it gets very serious.
“The anger expressed against migrant rough sleepers is understandable but I wouldn't say it is fair. Anybody can fall through the net, no matter what nationality you are.”
* Immigrant communities account for 64 per cent of Peterborough's population growth attracted to the city by the promise of fruit and vegetable picking jobs in the surrounding Fen countryside.
* At the housing office, 95 per cent of the people who are seen by officials do not speak English and interpreters are paid 30 an hour to be on hand to help.
* Fulbridge Primary School in Peterborough has a roll of 675 pupils but 27 different languages are spoken with only 200 of the pupils having English as a first language.
* Registration at a local doctors' surgery has rocketed with more than 90 per cent of the new arrivals being from the EU.
* Peterborough has an estimated population of around 163,000.
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