UK Immigration News Bulletin w/c February 19, 2007
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Labour has been accused of neglecting its core supporters
by 'racialising' housing policy and letting immigrants
take over cheap homes. The claim by Labour deputy leadership
contender Jon Cruddas threatens to cause a major row in
the party by reviving fears that a lack of affordable
homes is playing into the hands of British National Party
extremists. Left-wing MP Mr Cruddas claims one of the
main reasons for the problem is the flood of new arrivals
who have taken over cheap housing stock in cities. This
leaves none for families who have lived here for generations.
The MP for Dagenham, Essex, who is one of the favourites
to succeed John Prescott, said Britain faced an economic
and social crisis because of the huge drop in the number
of council houses and other ordinary homes available for
rent. Two major causes were the mass sale of council houses
and the arrival of huge numbers of immigrants. 'There
is a crisis in terms of access to low-cost social housing,'
he says in an interview with GMTV's Sunday Programme to
be broadcast today. 'It is linked to patterns of demographic
change, migration and the lack of supply. 'There is a
growing number of people who need council houses. Access
to council housing is becoming racialised because of a
lack of supply and it is feeding political extremism.'
Mr Cruddas claims that white working-class Labour voters
believe immigrants, particularly from Eastern Europe,
are taking over low-paid jobs and homes that used to go
to local people. He says it is driving traditional Labour
voters into the hands of the BNP. Labour strategists fear
that in the May elections Far Right parties could take
scores of council seats in areas of East London, Lancashire
and Yorkshire where ethnic tensions are high. The BNP
has recently been performing strongly in local by-elections,
coming within a few votes of defeating Labour. Mr Cruddas
has already highlighted how immigrants willing to work
for low wages are resented by unskilled white workers,
who are worried that their own salaries and status will
suffer. The former trade union organiser and Downing Street
aide has said he will not seek a Cabinet portfolio if
he wins the deputy leadership race. Instead the backbencher
wants to be the 'shop steward' of the party, communicating
the concerns of Labour's grass roots to the leadership.
Mr Cruddas's supporters claim he already has enough supporters
among MPs to ensure he will make it through to the final
vote. His main rivals are likely to be 'Establishment'
candidates including Education Secretary Alan Johnson
and Ulster Secretary Peter Hain.
Police are blaming gangs of Bulgarian women, drawn to
the UK by European Union expansion, for soaring rates
of pickpocketing in London. Official crime figures due
out in April are expected to show a disturbing rise in
pickpocketing offences, especially on the London Underground.
Across the capital, there has been a 120 per cent rise
in pickpocket crimes in January compared with last year.
'And that is the ones we know about,' said a senior detective.
'We are looking at 250 crimes a week.' The robberies,
police say, are mainly being committed by groups of Bulgarian
women in their 20s. 'The problem is we can't deport them
like Bosnians, because they are part of the European Union.
Extra police resources have had to be put in to tackle
this problem.' Bulgarian organised crime gangs operate
using pairs of women. Recent cases include 24-year-old
Eugenyia Bakova, who was jailed for 16 weeks on 17 January
for theft, and on 22 January Horseferry magistrates issued
a warrant for the arrest of an 18-year-old on pickpocket
allegations. Romania and Bulgaria have added 30 million
to the EU population and both have jobless rates of up
to 10 per cent. The Institute of Public Policy Research
estimates that 56,000 Romanians and Bulgarians may arrive
in the UK within the first year.
A British Transport Police spokesman said: 'There have
been more Eastern Europeans from our arrest profile over
the two months. And there has been an 18 per cent increase
in passenger property theft over the last two months (December
2006 and January 2007) compared with December 2005 and
January 2006.' Of 27 men and women arrested for pickpocketing
on the tube in January, 22 were of Eastern European origin.
Area commander Paul Crowther said: 'The tube network is
covered by CCTV cameras both on stations and trains. BTP
has responded to the current increase in thefts by increasing
profile patrols and the number of undercover officers
on the tube network.' Retired Metropolitan Flying Squad
commander John O'Connor said: 'What used to happen was
that there was a dedicated squad to fight pickpocketing,
but that was disbanded, and there is no central database.
Instead it is left to local police, who haven't got the
whole picture. There's a lot of police spin and most theft
gets reported as lost property to keep numbers down.'
Yana Buhrer Tavanier, an editor for the Bulgarian weekly
Capital, said: 'In Bulgaria there are cases of pickpocketing,
most often committed by Roma women or children, though
the numbers have dropped in recent years. Other European
countries have also reported cases of pickpocketing by
Bulgarian citizens... In 2005 there were around 600 registered
cases in Vienna. In 2006 it was reported that as a result
of a joint action by Bulgarian and Austrian authorities
the numbers have dropped drastically.'
A council scheme to put up road signs in Polish to stop
migrant drivers getting confused has been dismissed as
'bonkers'. Highways chiefs in Cheshire agreed to the move
to help Poles who cannot understand English. Signs of
madness: The sign in the foreground reads 'DIVERSION A49
for Whitchurch and nearby places' Motorists were left
bewildered when the eight yellow signs appeared in country
lanes around the Cheshire-Shropshire border to help Poles
follow diversions due to roadworks. Engineers said they
were necessary to cater for a soaring migrant population
in Crewe and Whitchurch, towns flooded by thousands of
Eastern Europeans after expansion of the EU in 2004. The
publicly-funded scheme has been described as the 'most
ludicrous example yet' of political correctness.
Tory MP Philip Davies, a campaigner against political
correctness, said: 'It's absolutely bonkers but what worries
me is that once one council starts, others follow.' But
speaking to Mail online, Neil Anderston, of the Cheshire
County Council highways department, defended the use of
road signs written in Polish on the A49. 'Eight out of
200 signs used to direct traffic are in Polish. This is
a common sense and practical answer to traffic problems
caused by polish drivers who don't understand our English
signs,' he said. Sign of the times: This Polish road sign
translates as 'For A49 to Whitchurch turn right at next
junction. The signs went up after police were repeatedly
called when migrant motorists, including lorry drivers,
were baffled by English signs, causing traffic mayhem.
Highways officials called in a Polish translator to get
the wording right on the notices, which have been placed
next to English equivalents. Resident Paul Walker, 55,
said he was staggered when he spotted two of the signs
while driving on the A49 in Ridley village, near Tarporley.
Translated into English, one reads: 'For A49 Whitchurch
turn right at next junction.' The other says: 'Diversion.
A49 for Whitchurch and nearby places.'
Father-of-two Mr Walker said: 'I am not racist or against
Polish people in any way. But it struck me as the most
ludicrous example of political correctness I have ever
come across. 'How can anyone justify spending taxpayers'
money on something like this?' Another driver, who asked
not to be named, added: 'You could be forgiven for wondering
whether you were driving deep into Polish countryside,
not the middle of Cheshire.' But the senior engineer who
came up with the idea defended the move. 'Just a few weeks
ago we had to stop work and let some Poles drive through
an area we were working on because they could not fathom
what was going on,' said Anderton. A spokeswoman for Cheshire
County Council told The Daily Express newspaper: 'Polish
people are part of the community and we need to cater
for their needs.' Even a Polish organisation failed to
see the point of the signs. 'It seems very strange and
is not something a Polish person living in Britain would
expect. I can't imagine why they are needed,' said an
official. Earlier this month, Barbara Tuge-Erecinska,
the new Polish ambassador to Britain, said there may be
as many as 600,000 of her compatriots living in the UK.
Twice the Home Office's estimate. If Ms Tuge-Erecinska
is correct, Poles are now the third-largest minority ethnic
group in the UK, after Pakistanis and Indians.
Moves to attract migrant workers to the North-East were
thrown into doubt last night when it emerged some councillors
are refusing to trust criminal records checks from eastern
Europe. Taxi firm bosses in North Tyneside have been told
drivers from Poland and the Czech Republic will not be
given licences because of uncertainty over records from
their home countries. However, several other North-East
councils are willing to licence foreign drivers - and
North Tyneside will allow Polish people to work in other
jobs based on a British Criminal Records Bureau check.
North Tyneside Taxi Organisation secretary Alan Fidler
said that if the position on drivers is upheld, it 'must
call into question' use of migrant labour in other sectors.
It comes after plans were announced for a regional migration
strategy to encourage more workers from overseas, including
eastern Europe, to settle in the North-East. North Tyneside's
stance emerged when an applicant - identified only as
Mr K - supplied information from the central criminal
records register of the Polish ministry of justice. As
he had not been resident in the UK for more than five
years, this is needed to make enhanced CRB disclosure
valid. However, because of uncertainty about the foreign
documentation, he was told a council committee 'could
not be satisfied you were a fit and proper person to hold
such a licence'. A North Tyneside Council spokeswoman
said: 'Our licensing officers are currently researching
the position regarding CRB checks in all EU countries
to ensure that they are compatible with British CRB checks.
'As soon as that research is completed we will formulate
a sensible policy which can be applied consistently and
ensures taxi users have the appropriate level of protection.'
The authority insisted cases are dealt with 'on their
merits' in the meantime. Applications for other jobs are
based purely on CRB checks, in accordance with Government
guidance, the council said. But Mr Fidler said: 'If the
council's policy is reasonable for taxi drivers, it must
call into question the employment of hundreds and thousands
of foreign nationals in schools, care homes, etc...' Immigration
lawyer Liaquat Latif said: 'It seems a little bit of hypocrisy
to accept new European Union countries but not to accept
their laws and procedures.' Other North-East authorities
do not issue a blanket ban on drivers. Newcastle, Chester-le-Street,
Sunderland and Blyth Valley councils each said they would
look at foreign records without issuing an automatic `no'.
Gateshead said it is 'actively considering the issue'
and taking legal advice, but has had no applications yet.
An Alnwick Council spokeswoman said: 'It is a problem
and does need to be rectified.' A series of crises in
recent months have raised concerns over how security checks
have been handled on cross-border crime. In December 2005,
then Home Secretary Charles Clarke warned the Prime Minister
that hundreds of foreign prisoners had been freed from
UK jails without the required investigation into whether
they should be deported. Five of the criminals convicted
of serious offences went on to commit new crimes after
their release, including violence and drugs offences.
In May 2006, Mr Clarke's replacement as Home Secretary,
John Reid, revealed the numbers released included 186
serious offenders, many of whom are still at large. Last
month, a senior Home Office civil servant was suspended
over a failure to provide police with details of crimes
committed by Britons in Europe. The records that had not
been logged included that of Dale Miller, who was jailed
for 16 years in 2002 for the manslaughter of gangland
rival Freddie Knights, shot on his mother's doorstep in
Longbenton in 2000. Migrant workers capable of earning
more than the North-East's average wage are needed if
the region is to hit its economic targets, a new report
said yesterday. Researchers at the North-East Regional
Information Partnership (Nerip) were asked to assess the
skills gap that needs to be filled by foreign workers.
It comes in the wake of talks on a strategy for attracting
more migrant labour to the North-East, after the regional
economic strategy set a target of shifting GVA - a measure
of wealth - from 80% to 90% of the national average by
2016. The Nerip report says: 'The RES target will be more
easily achieved if migrants who come into the region are
generating higher levels of GVA - which probably implies
that they will need to earn higher salaries than the regional
average.' However, research shows workers from outside
the EU are more likely to work in higher level jobs. At
present, employers are largely using migrants from new
EU countries in low-skilled work. Skills needed to hit
the 90% target, according to the report, include degree-level
qualifications in energy, chemicals, financial and business
services, health and social care and public services sectors.
Also needed would be A-level equivalent qualifications
in sectors including hotels and catering.
Two Latvians who broke into an elderly widow's home and
pushed her down the stairs were let into Britain despite
being well-known criminals in their home country. Dorothy
Hodgson, 74, was lucky to survive the violent late-night
burglary, and despite surgery faces being scarred for
life as a result of appalling injuries to her face. After
her attackers were captured by police, officers discovered
that one had served a five-year prison sentence for robbery
in Latvia while his accomplice is wanted for assault by
the authorities there. But because Latvia is a member
of the EU, they were free to settle and work in Britain
without having their criminal records scrutinised. To
add insult to injury, assault charges against the pair
have now been dropped after a judge said it couldn't be
established which of them pushed Mrs Hodgson - even though
she is adamant she knows and would have been prepared
to testify in court. Yesterday she and her family were
joined by their local MP in demanding tougher measures
against foreign criminals trying to move to Britain. Mrs
Hodgson was preparing to go to bed at her home in Brierfield,
Lancashire on July 23 last year when she came across two
men in her bedroom. 'I slammed the bedroom door to try
to trap them but one of them forced his way out and pushed
me down the stairs,' she said yesterday. Despite a gashed
face she picked up her phone to dial 999, but the man
ripped the receiver out of her hand and the pair fled.
The blood-covered grandmother had crawl to a neighbour's
house and call for help.
At the time a detective on the case said: 'Had the victim
been frail and unable to raise the alarm, we may have
been dealing with a murder investigation.' Police later
arrested Vjaceslavs Skerskans, 29, and Ramunas Budvyatis,
30, and found they were Latvians living in nearby Nelson
where they worked at meat factories. They were charged
with burglary and assault causing grievous bodily harm,
but last week when they appeared at Burnley Crown Court
the latter charge was dropped because prosecutors couldn't
prove which of them had pushed her. Yesterday Mrs Hodgson
said: 'That's nonsense - it was definitely the round-faced
one (Budvyatis) who attacked me. 'I would have stood up
in court and said that, but now I won't have the chance.
I feel very let down. 'And to find out they were known
criminals when they came to Britain and yet we can do
nothing about it is appalling.' Mrs Hodgson, a retired
nurse whose storekeeper husband Laurence died 12 years
ago, has now moved into sheltered accommodation because
her family were worried about her living alone. The mother-of-two
needed 30 stitches, and more than six months on can barely
open her mouth, although she has been able to resume work
as a volunteer with the St John Ambulance at football
matches. Her daughter, nurse Kathryn Nixon, 49, added:
'Why can't we be like America where people can be kept
out of the country if they have criminal records? 'It
feels as if their rights are more important than people
like my mum's. The detective told me we don't know who
we're letting in.
The law's a joke.' Since Latvia joined the EU in 2004,
its citizens have been free to settle and work in Britain.
Criminal convictions would not normally bar them from
entry although these are meant to be kept on file, yet
even here ministers have admitted that details of foreign
criminals living in Britain are far from comprehensive.
The case, which heaps more pressure on the Home Office,
has echoes of the killing of schoolgirl Jeshma Raithatha
by Viktors Dembovskis in 2005. He had a string of rape
convictions in his native Latvia but no checks were made
on his background when he moved to Britain. Last night
Mrs Hodgson's MP, Labour's Gordon Prentice, said: 'We
do not want these types of people here. 'Surely some checks
on their background could have been made when they entered
this country. Immigration should have stopped them.' He
also criticised the courts for failing to pursue the assault
charge. 'One or the other pushed her down the stairs.
I do not really understand this. I don't know why the
CPS did not press that point.' He called for them to be
deported once they had served their sentences, although
EU rules may make that impossible. A spokeswoman for the
Crown Prosecution Service said it had tried unsuccessfully
to argue in court that both men could be charged with
the assault on the basis that it had been a joint enterprise.
Both men admitted burglary and were remanded in custody
to be sentenced next month. The violence they used will
be cited as an 'aggravating factor' in a bid to persuade
the judge to hand down lengthy sentences - the maximum
jail term for burglary is 14 years.
Growing evidence suggests that 'rogue' nurses are using
loopholes in European law to work in Britain, regulators
claimed today. One Dutch doctor was convicted of rape
in his own country - but allowed to work in Britain, the
Times revealed. And two banned Irish nurses have also
been found to be working in Britain. The cases are cited
in a letter signed jointly by representatives of Britains
professional health regulation bodies, including the General
Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
The problem has arisen because under EU law Britain is
obliged to accept health professionals recognised in other
EU countries. They need evidence of the correct training
and a 'certificate of good standing' - but the regulators
say the same standards are not being applied across the
continent. In the letter the regulators state: 'In 2005,
over 7,000 practitioners from the European Economic Area
(the 27 EU states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway)
came to Britain to register with our regulatory bodies
and find work. 'While the UK undoubtedly benefits from
this high level of mobility there may be a minority who
exploit free-movement rights and put patients at risk.
'Regulators in Europe must be given the tools to enable
them to facilitate this free movement while at the same
time ensuring the safety of patients and the public.'