MIGRANT WORKERS IN PETERBOROUGH: HATE CRIME AND HOUSING (uk)
BBC Look East has been examining issues surrounding immigration and migrant workers in the East of England.
16/8/2010- In Peterborough, many of those filmed continue to live in makeshift tent encampments or in garden shed. Others live in sub-standard, unregistered, rented accommodation and pay for that privilege. Reporters Emma Baugh and Fatima Manji also examined the lack of government funding for essential services and discovered an increase in hate crime.
Migrant tent encampments
PCSOs Lucie Vaclavikova and Leanne Temperton were filmed as they investigated the number of migrant workers living rough in Peterborough. One Polish worker was being moved on for the second time. He explained that he was now planning to move to Manchester where he had heard that it was easier to find a job. Some of the encampments were well-hidden in the undergrowth, but in the middle of Peterborough's busy Boongate roundabout, tents had been pitched and their occupants said they did not intend to move. They said that conditions there were still better than in their own country.
East immigration pressures grow
In the past five years, the number of migrant workers in the eastern region has increased by 60%. In Peterborough, one in every five workers was born overseas. At Fulbridge Primary School in the city, the pupils speak 27 different languages. Ian Erskine is the head teacher. He said that the school was having to turn away one family every day because so many people were moving to the area and wanting to enrol their children at the school. Local MPs have urged central government to provide more funding to help cover the increasing costs of education, healthcare and policing. Stewart Jackson, the Conservative MP for Peterborough, said: "Cambridgeshire has had to bear the burden and has had a pretty rough deal."
Hate crime in a 'vibrant melting pot'
In the past year there were 600 reports of hate crime in Peterborough. Of these, 170 occurred in schools. Asta Remezaite moved from Lithuania to Peterborough six years ago. She had no problems for the first five years, but in recent months she believes she has become a victim of hate crime. She has experienced verbal abuse, eggs have been thrown at her home and her car has been vandalised on several occasions. Mahebub Ladha is the director of Peterborough Racial Equality Council. He said: "There is no doubt in my mind that race relations in Peterborough are not as good as they were, even 10 years ago." The council said negative publicity about migrant workers and increased pressure on essential services had contributed to the situation.
Poor housing conditions
Housing officers from Peterborough City Council have discovered that many migrant workers are living in unsuitable conditions in rented accommodation. They said that private landlords were exploiting foreign workers, many of whom did not know their rights and struggled with the language. Locating unregistered properties and tracking down landlords is a slow process. The council's enforcement officers usually have to rely on the tenants for information about their landlords, and this often requires the use of translators. Jo Hodges, from the council, said: "We have to make sure that we explain very carefully and make sure that they understand everything."
The population surge
Across the East, there has been a surge in population due largely to an influx of migrant workers from Europe. Skilled migrant workers from non-EU countries said they may be forced to leave under new plans to limit the number of foreign workers in the UK. But the government's proposed cap on immigration will not affect those coming to the UK from EU member countries, and therefore may not fully address the problems of an increased population in this region.
© BBC News