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Page last updated at 12:14 GMT, Monday, 16 August 2010 13:14 UK
Migrant workers in Peterborough: Hate crime and housing
Asta Remezaite
Lithuanian-born Asta Remezaite says she is the victim of hate crime

BBC Look East has been examining issues surrounding immigration and migrant workers in the East of England.

In Peterborough, many of those filmed continue to live in makeshift tent encampments or in garden sheds.

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.

Police community support officers keep an eye on the rough sleepers

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.

In the past five years the population in the eastern region has risen by 138,000

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.

Anti-racism campaigners in Peterborough say new arrivals are often targeted

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.

Discarded mattress

Many migrants face living in illegally overcrowded houses

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.

The population of the eastern region could top 6m by 2018

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.

What do you think?

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• What about the racism/hate crime against us UK Citizens who have lived here all our lives, worked full time all our lives, payed our taxes, mortgages, bills, etc all our lives and are no better off than many unemployed, a lot of which are immigrants, who are being quick to have their children in this country in order to get as much as they can from Benefits, housing, the NHS, etc. Then there's the older of these children who go to our schools, have no respect for teachers, females, etc., My daughter was kicked in the stomach by a foreign boy at her school in a completely unprovoked attack. The Government are clearly at fault for allowing the immigration in this country to become so out of control. There is not enough work in this country to cater for UK citizens, let alone immigrants.
Jackie, Peterborough

• It's about time that this was stopped, Peterborough is at breaking point. What is the Government waiting for? Riots on the streets, it will happen if nothing is done. It is no way to organise immigration, planning must be done in advance of people arriving, schools, services etc. How can a teacher conduct a class of 45 different national. In any event it will disadvantage our own children. When will the authorities see sense. Just speak with Mrs Spence our Chief Constable she understands the situation.
William, Peterborough

• No job, no insurance, no means to support themselves, often not even the means to get home. How did they get into the country?

Here's an idea - spend money on re-skilling long term unemployed instead of supporting economic migrants. The only winners of the current policy are (foreign) owners of British based business, dodgy landlords, and politicians who need the immigrant block vote to stay elected.
Al, Peterborough

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