Saturday, March 22, 2014

"England could be beautiful...but"

It is nearly three months since restrictions were eased on Romanian and Bulgarian migrants. The first official statistics will not be available until May but anecdotal reports from councils and community leaders suggest there has not so far been a big influx.

Nicolae Ratiu, who heads a foundation supporting the Romanian community, says: "There has not been a massive wave. A lot of the people who wanted to be here were already here. Now they are registering for work and that is entirely legal."

Homelessness has been a stubborn problem. Stefan Lazar was sleeping in a garage until recently. But he has now found a more secure shelter. With some help, he has also obtained the most vital thing of all - a national insurance number to work legally. "For me, England is very beautiful," he explained "For me I don't have another chance. This is my chance."

Moise Lapadat, another man who has been sleeping rough, has already had enough. "I wouldn't encourage others to come," he said. "It could be beautiful here. But if you've got nowhere to sleep and no work, it's no good."

Homeless Romanians come to a community project called Ashford Place in Cricklewood. They are given shelter, food, and help registering with a GP and finding work. Those running the centre say there has not been a sudden new surge of migrants since January. And they strongly reject the idea that Romanians have come to live on welfare. "If nothing else it's about pride," said Lucien Lawrence, an outreach worker. "These people aren't content to come over and exist on benefits. I've never met a group of people more offended by the idea of benefits."

Community leaders say there is more to be done to convince the public, the media and some politicians that new migrants are here to make a positive contribution.

From the BBC

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