Page last updated at 05:48 GMT, Saturday, 12 April 2008 06:48 UK

Police count the cost of migrants

By Sally Chidzoy
BBC East Home Affairs Correspondent

Illegal immigrant
This woman was arrested when police raided a cannabis factory

Police have arrested a gardener in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, who they suspect has been tending drugs.

They believe the illegal migrant was smuggled to the UK by a crime gang who forced her into watering plants at a cannabis factory.

Within minutes of her arrest the 43-year-old is in the police custody suite at Thorpe Wood station in the city.

When she is led to a cell she blurts out her story and bursts into tears. She was smuggled here, desperate to earn money to send home to her children and her disabled husband.

She owes 6,000 to the traffickers who flew her to Germany and brought her to Britain hidden in a lorry.

Furious banging

Now she cannot pay them, she is in debt and she says she wants to die.

She will probably be jailed and then deported.

Her case provides a snapshot of the pressures facing police dealing with migrants. Officers must now locate an interpreter and begin the lengthy process of completing the paperwork.

The problem with different nationalities is that it slows everything down
Insp Chip Walker

Within minutes two Lithuanians are brought in after police find them allegedly carrying CS spray canisters in their car.

Then an Egyptian arrives. He has been arrested at a factory. He pretends he's a Palestinian in the vain hope to avoid deportation. Officers have seen it all before and deal with him patiently.

The Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Julie Spence recently made headlines when she spoke out about the huge strain mass migration is placing on existing police resources.

This is a city where you can find interpreters earning more than the Chief Constable. One translator dealing with Latvian and Lithuanian prisoners picked-up 150,000 last year - the tab settled by tax payers.

Court frustration

Thorpe Wood police station alone spent 500,000 on interpreters last year.

Insp Chip Walker tells me: "The problem with different nationalities, for people who don't have English as a first language, is that it slows everything down - while we've got people here we need to get hold of interpreters by telephone or face to face."

In 2003 12% of people arrested in Peterborough were foreign nationals, the force said.

Three years later that figure had risen to 20%. Foreign nationals now account for almost half of all drink-drive arrests in the city.

I decide to conduct my own research at Peterborough Magistrates' Court.

Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Julie Spence
If we have fewer resources the pressures can be just as great as some of the big cities
Julie Spence

Of the 95 cases listed on a daily court list, 75 of them involve migrants.

Most charges relate to motoring offences.

I watch in court as one man from Poland insists - through his interpreter - that he does have a driving licence and insurance, he just does not have the documents on him.

The magistrate contains her frustration as she asks him why he hasn't brought them along with him. It is clear she thinks he's trying it on. The case is adjourned.

The bench has 90 similar cases to deal with the next day. The court is spending about 1,500 a day on interpreters - about 30,000 a month.

The chief constable has said she will continue pressing the Home Office for more resources, ahead of a meeting with the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith next week.

When asked if she agreed with critics who have suggested the government has a blind spot on migration issues, she said: "There is, I think, a blind spot in the Metropolitan areas, a view that the smaller counties and the rural counties have no problems.

"In fact they can be equally significant. If we have fewer resources the pressures can be just as great as some of the big cities."

The Home Office would not be drawn on next week's meeting between chief constables and the home secretary.

The migration issue is one of many topics being discussed.

Extra police funding 'considered'
21 Nov 07 |  Cambridgeshire
Migrants linked to crime?
19 Sep 07 |  Cambridgeshire
Anger over Home Secretary's reply
02 Oct 07 |  Cambridgeshire

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