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Polish migrants, begging and sleeping rough on the streets of
Hammersmith and Fulham are to receive help from the Barka Foundation.
The Barka Foundation is a Polish social inclusion charity that has
come to the borough to help those members of the local migrant
population who have not found life in Britain as easy to cope with
as they anticipated.
The charity highlights that homelessness is a problem for foreign
nationals because most hostels are not able to accept them, and
while they have entitlement to primary medical care, this does not
extend to drink and drug rehabilitation treatment.
Over the last twenty years the Barka Foundation has helped over
20,000 people in Poland through its network of twenty small homes.
The charity, that receives its funding from the Polish government
and European funds assists people in overcoming problems with
alcoholism and drugs and encourages social enterprise among long-
At a meeting at Hammersmith Town Hall, a delegation from the Barka
Foundation met Councillor Greg Smith, cabinet member for crime and
anti-social behaviour, along with officers from H&F Council and
representatives from the police and parks constabulary.
Previous meetings between the council and the charity had agreed a
series of shared objectives that will now be put into force. Staff
from the Barka Foundation will be based at the Broadway Centre in
the first such scheme in the country.
It is anticipated that more will be set up in the capital and
elsewhere around the country in the future where similar issues
Indeed, among other parties attending the recent meeting were
representatives from Southwark, Ealing and Westminster Councils, who
expressed an interest in learning from this proactive move.
Councillor Smith said, "We want to do all we can to ensure that
migrants in our borough are provided with the necessary support, but
in a lot of cases we find that there is only so much we can do as a
council to help.
"The Barka Foundation allows us to help find a solution to a problem
that certainly won't go away unless something is done. By working
with them, we can help people return home to an environment that
will give them better opportunities and a brighter future."
I am very surprised not to see some forum members getting excited about this development....isn't this the sort of thing you think should be happening in the UK? Or do you only prefer negative news stories?
It is a negative story.
The story is about a Polish charity helping Poles Angela. It is not about the homeless, but about the charity. That's why the title starts with the words "Polish charity".
The charity's work in the UK with exclusively Polish beggars and homeless is overwhelmingly funded by EU taxpayers. Not from Poland. Money also comes out of council tax funds from Westminster and Southwark boroughs in Central London.
An article from This is London. I believe you live in London, Ania.
Polish charity workers arrive to take migrants home
Polish charity workers have arrived in Britain to help send home hundreds of their countrymen who are living rough on the streets of London having failed to find jobs.
The Polish aid volunteers were invited by UK homeless charities who admit they cannot cope with the influx of east European migrants - whose dreams of a better life in Britain have turned sour.
The number of homeless people sleeping rough in central London has doubled in a year, and charity bosses claim similar problems are starting to emerge in other towns and cities - prompting fears that desperate migrants will drift into begging, prostitution or petty crime.
The Polish team from the Barka Foundation plan to help many of their countrymen return home by buying them a bus ticket to Warsaw. They will also help them find work and housing if they are determined to stay in the UK.
But the spectacle of former aid workers from the former Soviet bloc trying to tackle social problems on the streets of Britain's capital is a serious blow for the Government's immigration strategy.
An estimated 600,000 eastern Europeans have arrived since 2004 when eight new countries joined the EU - and unlike most other existing member states Britain allowed them unrestricted access to her labour markets.
The Government's belief that only 13,000 would arrive each year was shown to be woefully wrong, and new arrivals are still streaming into the UK at a rate of 200,000 a year.
While most succeed in finding work, charities warn that growing numbers are flocking to Britain with highly unrealistic expectations of plentiful jobs and cheap accommodation.
The week-long fact-finding visit by the Barka Foundation team, based in Poznan in Poland, will include meetings with British charities and local government officials.
Philip Burke of the Simon Community, one of the UK homelessness charity which arranged the visit, said: 'Our concern is for people arriving at Victoria Coach Station from Poland or elsewhere penniless and destitute. They have no access to state funds, and can't stay in state-supported hostels.
'Most of them want to work but they often don't speak English and have no contacts here. They're ending up sleeping in the streets and parks, and now summer's coming to an end.
'These people are vulnerable to drugs, crime and alcohol - and are open to exploitation. More widely, we risk returning to the situation in the early 1990s when much larger numbers of people were sleeping rough in our cities.
'The Government needs to do more to offer better advice to these new arrivals so they can get into the labour market.
'The whole issue is being left to the charities and we have limited resources, as well as the language barrier.'
Mr Burke warned that extending Britain's open door policy when Romania and Bulgaria join the EU next year could lead to even bigger problems.
According to the Simon Community's regular counts the number of rough sleepers in central London has doubled to more than 400 in 12 months, with growing numbers of eastern Europeans relying on food handouts to stay alive and unable to raise the £50 needed for a bus ticket home.
The Barka Foundation believes far larger numbers of eastern European workers are living in squalid conditions, and as many as 100,000 may need help.
It hopes to establish a network of help centres for destitute migrant workers in the UK, helped by funds from the Polish government, but will also try to persuade them to make the return trip home.
Here the Home Office has given a limited cash grant to Westminster City Council - the borough most affected by the problems - to help eastern European migrants return home, but the money runs out next month.
Other council leaders are warning that they too need financial help to stop the problem spiralling out of control.
Sheffield City Council has been paid £45,000 by the Home Office to send back homeless Slovakians who brought their entire families to live in England but have found themselves destitute after temporary work contracts expired.
Here's a sample of the latest views published. You can click view all to read all views that readers have sent in.
So once again this so called government of ours has made a mess of something, even though they had been warned many times by various bodies that unlimited immigration was wrong.
Notice that all this has been kept quiet and the official view is that we need all these immigrants. We do - like a hole in the head.
- Charles Taylor, Bristol, England
Thank goodness Polish charities are taking some responsibilty for their own people fooled into thinking that the streets of London are paved with gold. Far from it. The streets are where the most danger lies.
The New Europeans should think twice and have jobs already lined up before setting out. Poland needs to be careful not to deplete itself of its own talent by an unnecessary brain drain if it is to build up its own strong economy. There are great concerns that Poland is moving too far to the right by recent statements made by its leaders.
- Dhanraj, Basildon
Or this one:-
Westminster pays struggling Poles to go home
Polish immigrants living in poverty in Britain after failing to find work and accommodation are being paid to return home by a London authority worried about the numbers of homeless Eastern Europeans on its streets.
Westminster Council has funded the return of more than 265 Poles and is asking the Department for Work and Pensions for more money to help solve the crisis, described as an "unfolding tragedy" by one of its councillors. Yesterday the authority, several charities and the Barka Foundation, a non-governmental organisation from Poland, agreed to collaborate to help the thousands of immigrants estimated to be living in squalor in Britain.
A delegation from the Barka Foundation arrived in London last week with the intention of setting up an office near Victoria coach station, where most Poles arrive, which will aim to help immigrants find work and accommodation, as well as proving training, language skills, and counselling for drug and alcohol addiction.
"It is terribly sad and I feel very much for my fellow countrymen," said Ewa Sadowska, a spokesman for the foundation.
"The media in Poland believed that the situation here in London had been exaggerated, but it hasn't at all.
"I have met hundreds of homeless Polish people since I arrived here. Each one has their own terrible story to tell."
An estimated 400,000 Poles live in Britain having taken advantage of the government's decision to open its labour markets to workers from the accession countries of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia since they joined the European Union in May 2004.
Barka estimates that of these about 45,000 are living in squalor, although up to 100,000 could be "in difficulty".
The Simon Community, a London homelessness charity which initially approached the Barka Foundation for help, estimates that up to 35 per cent of the people it encounters on its daily soup runs in the capital are immigrants from Poland.
Polish immigrants cannot claim benefits until they have worked for 16 months in Britain and paid all their national insurance contributions, which leads many to end up on the streets.
If they are not claiming benefits they cannot sleep in state-funded hostels.
Many Poles arrive in London with little money and no contacts, but expect to find work and accommodation immediately. The reverse is often the case.
Yesterday Janusz Wach, the Polish Consul General in London, urged his countrymen not to come to Britain.
He said: "We advise everyone: don't come if you don't have the financial resources, if you don't have the contacts, if you don't have a job waiting for you in the UK, if you don't know the language, if you don't have skills.
''Just don't come. It is not as easy as you think. Some of you will make it, most of you will not."
Angela Harvey, a Westminster councillor, visited Poland recently to address the country's parliament on the growing number of homeless people on the streets in London.
She said: "This is a national problem, not a local one.
''We want the Department for Work and Pensions to fulfil their treaty obligations and advise these people how to go about getting a job.
''We recommended setting up a welcome desk at Victoria coach station, which they declined.
''From the 400,000 to 600,000 estimated Poles that have arrived in Britain it is only a tiny minority who find themselves in this situation.
''These people did not come here to sleep rough. They came here to work but a human tragedy is unfolding."
Westminster was given £167,000 last year to pay for one-way tickets for homeless Poles, as well as extra police officers and an interpreter to help its outreach work.
As Hans points out the story is negative not positive.
From the BBC:-
When the government opened the doors to people from other countries in Europe, to work here, they imposed a condition.
People could work, but could not claim any benefits, or access public services until they had worked here for at least 12 months.
It seems fair enough.
The government did not want people from central and Eastern Europe having any impact on the public purse.
Only there is a sizeable (and growing) minority that are not able to find work and because of the government policy of "no help" are then destitute and relying on charity for survival.
To get an idea of how many people are coming to London, I went to Victoria coach station.
This is where 67 coaches arrive each week from Poland alone.
In the half hour I was there, four coaches arrived from towns in Poland.
There was a young man at a hotel booking desk, sitting behind signs in Polish.
He said that, each day, he deals with eastern European migrants who do not speak a single word of English.
Ewa, who works for the Barka Foundation, a charity in Poland that helps alleviate poverty, told me she was not surprised.
She said that since Poland joined Europe in May 2004, the press had been writing all these success stories about Poles going to London and becoming rich. "We think England will be paradise," she says.
Obviously it is not. Certainly not, when you cannot speak a word of English.
High church, high hopes
That night, an interpreter and I visited the rear of Westminster Cathedral where the Simon Community was giving out free food and hot drinks.
More than half the people there were from the former Soviet block countries.
Most would not be filmed because they had told friends and family back home, that they were working and did not want to be seen living on the streets.
But we did find one guy from the Czech Republic, Marek, who said that he would love to work, but could not even fill out forms for jobs.
I could not help asking him, if he really thought it would be easy to come here and work without speaking the language.
He said, he had nothing at home and nothing to go back to, and quite frankly, it was better to be homeless on the streets here, than where he came from.
Poet in motion
One man who will really stick in my mind, was an elderly Englishman called Mark.
He said he was a poet and had taken on a fatherly role in the homeless community.
I watched the way he joked and chatted to these migrants, worked through the language barrier and thought he set an example of open-minded, decency.
These guys - even the intimidating-looking ones, are vulnerable and scared.
Would you not be in a foreign land, out on the streets, with a back-pack to your name and not even speaking the language?
Short-term, the Barka Foundation and other charities want and help and advice desk for economic migrants set up at Victoria Coach Station.
But long-term, local authorities want one government department to take on this issue and a national action plan to prevent these migrants becoming destitute.
Also in the programme...
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