Farce of swoop on mi­grant beg­gars

Sunday Express - - Jennifer Selway - By Anil Dawar

BRI­TAIN is pow­er­less to deal with East­ern Euro­pean beg­gars, a lead­ing coun­cil­lor de­clared yes­ter­day as an at­tempt to clear Roma gip­sies from Lon­don’s Park Lane ended in fail­ure.

The coun­cil­lor spoke out af­ter 35 out of 37 rough sleep­ers rounded up around May­fair by po­lice and immigration of­fi­cers yes­ter­day morn­ing were al­lowed to re­turn to the streets.

Only one woman from the group was forced to re­turn to her home coun­try, Ro­ma­nia, at tax­pay­ers’ ex­pense.

One other woman vol­un­teered to go home where she wants to seek med­i­cal treat­ment – know­ing that the £200 flight would be free.

Nickie Aiken of West­min­ster City Coun­cil said ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tion “does not go far enough” to com­bat crime and anti-so­cial behaviour by the squat­ters in some of the cap­i­tal’s most up­mar­ket ar­eas, adding: “We need tighter reg­u­la­tions.”

Land­mark

The Roma dealt with yes­ter­day were screened at a makeshift bor­der post at Mar­ble Arch.

The 4am crack­down saw dozens of men and women rounded up and pro­cessed un­der a tent at the Lon­don land­mark.

But po­lice ad­mit­ted that apart from the two women be­ing sent home, the rest were free to re­turn to their makeshift camp on the cen­tral reser­va­tion in Park Lane.

PC Karen Spencer said ev­ery­one pro­cessed yes­ter­day was Roma and part of an “or­gan­ised group”. She said: “We can’t link th­ese peo­ple to spe­cific crimes.” But she added: “They are be­lieved to be main­tain­ing them­selves on the street, steal­ing food, wa­ter and that kind of thing, but also petty theft.

“We have heard of them steal­ing prop­erty from din­ers’ ta­bles, tak­ing hand­bags and pick­pock­et­ing.

“We are do­ing ev­ery­thing we can within the pa­ram­e­ters of the leg­is­la­tion to take con­trol of the is­sue, but it’s an up­hill bat­tle.

“All the peo­ple pro­cessed to­day were within their rights to be here apart from one. Those who we have moved on will in all like­li­hood re­turn to the ar­eas wher­ever they can beg.”

Im­mi­grants from Ro­ma­nia and Bul­garia can only stay in the UK for more than three months if they can prove they are work­ing, study­ing or able to sup­port them­selves fi­nan­cially while job hunt­ing.

But many twist the three-month rule by briefly leav­ing the coun­try be­fore the time limit is up then re­turn­ing to start a new three-month stay.

Af­ter yes­ter­day’s op­er­a­tion, Ms Aiken, West­min­ster’s cabi­net mem­ber for com­mu­nity pro­tec­tion, said: “The cur­rent leg­isla­tive pow­ers avail­able do not go far enough and still al­low some peo­ple to play the sys­tem and ex­ploit a three-month win­dow.”

Ac­cord­ing to West­min­ster Coun­cil there were 275 rough sleep­ers in the area at the lat­est count, around 160 of whom were non-UK na­tion­als. Up to 80 were from Ro­ma­nia.

The woman forced to re­turn to Ro­ma­nia will be barred from re­turn­ing to the UK for 12 months.

Pic­tures: JEREMY SEL­WYN and HAN­NAH McKAY/NA­TIONAL PIC­TURES

A Roma man is snapped with a num­ber and his ID pa­pers

An el­derly woman with an of­fi­cial at Mar­ble Arch dur­ing the po­lice swoop

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