Farce of swoop on migrant beggars
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.”
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.
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