Page last updated at 10:28 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Homeless immigrants flown home

Polish immigrant Christof at Stansted Airport
Christof abused alcohol after sleeping rough in London for a year

Immigrants from eastern Europe who have been living rough on the streets of London are being flown back home in a government-backed scheme.

Charity Thames Reach is helping people who want to go home after being unable to find work or housing in the UK.

Christof from Poland, who had his passport stolen, was among the first people to return home under the scheme.

It is being supported by a £120,000 grant from the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Thames Reach chief executive Jeremy Swain said most central and eastern European immigrants working in the UK had "thrived" and contributed to the economy.

But a small number had ended up in poverty, facing language difficulties and struggling with benefits.

'Save money'

"When we have people in circumstances in central London who are in the state we are seeing some of these people in, ultimately they are going to be a drain on the NHS," he said.

"So getting them back will save us money."

Christof developed alcohol abuse problems after sleeping rough in London for a year.

He was given a new passport and flown out from Stansted airport accompanied by two outreach workers, who will put him in contact with support services in Poland.

"I feel very good because I'm going home," Christof said. "But I feel bad because of the alcohol."

Thames Reach said it would continue to support rough sleepers who wanted to stay in the UK.

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