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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 May 2007, 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK
Multi-cultural world of migration
By Claire Marshall
BBC News

Polish people boarding a coach to Britain
The true numbers of migrants into the UK have been queried
As local authorities claim the number of migrants entering the UK has been underestimated how are communities adapting to the demands of new arrivals?

Father David Jennings beams as he recounts how the congregation at St Peter and All Souls' Church in Peterborough has nearly doubled in size over the last three years.

"We now celebrate mass in six different languages. Three of these we added in the last year".

On Sundays, people arrive an hour early to make sure they get seats on the packed pews.

We've seen significant pressures on some public services, including primary care, doctors surgeries, housing, and primary education
Stewart Jackson, Peterborough MP

Father David tries to integrate these newcomers through mixed cultural events, such as international food tasting evenings.

He says that his congregation has adapted well, but anticipates more arrivals.

"Now that the boundaries are open, I see it as a constant flow," he said.

"It will be a challenge not just for the parish but also the wider community to see how we meet and accommodate a migrant workforce from Europe."

One of the worshippers, Krzysztof Chmiel, aged 60, arrived in Peterborough recently from Poland. He used to work as an artist.

However he said that he hadn't been able to sell many of his paintings. Asked how long he would stay, he smiled and said: "Maybe forever - if I get a permanent job."

'Big impact'

While good for Catholic congregations, this high level of immigration has its negative effects as well.

As he walks down the main pedestrianised shopping street in the city, Stewart Jackson, Peterborough's MP says: "This huge influx has had a big impact.

"We've seen significant pressures on some public services, including primary care, doctors surgeries, housing, and primary education.

"We haven't had sufficient funding to assist in making the necessary changes."

It is this worry over their ability to provide public services that has prompted four local authorities to write to the Treasury, demanding that the government improve its official migration figures.

Without the right data, they argue, central government financing decisions are arbitrary.

The Office of National Statistics has recently made improvements to its system.

However Slough, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham Councils all believe that the real number of migrants is being "severely underestimated".

They argue that the system has "significant flaws".

Doubts over numbers

This picture of concern appears to be reflected across the country.

Two-thirds of the councils the BBC contacted said that they had no faith in the official number of migrants in their area.

Over half said that they would consider doing their own count to establish a more accurate picture.

As the Olympic village rises from derelict ground in Newham, cranes are also busy constructing high-rise blocks of flats.

The numbers that the Office of National Statistics come up with just don't make sense
Sir Robbie Wales, Mayor of Newham

Six thousand new dwellings have been built in the last year, and they have all been occupied.

Yet, according to official figures, the population of the borough is declining.

Sir Robbie Wales, the elected Mayor of Newham, looks up at the frantic construction work.

"The numbers that the Office of National Statistics come up with just don't make sense," he says.

"They don't capture the number of migrants we have here.

"As a result, we might have to have higher council taxes, or just put up with not quite the services we are used to".



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