The European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, FEANTSA, has concluded that homeless services across Western Europe "are being left to mop up after the failure of immigration policies". The report dispels the myth that newcomers to this country are given preferential treatment by social services, and fast-tracked into housing and on to benefits. In fact, immigrants are more likely to end up sidelined by the welfare system and living on the streets.
The report found that "a substantial and growing number of immigrants are among the users (of homeless services)" and that "in some countries (in Western Europe), close to half of those who use these services are immigrants". The sudden growth of homeless immigrants was also raised in a recent edition of BBC's Panorama called Britain's New Migrants. The programme highlighted immigration from the new nations of the European Union, the A8 countries - Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Immigration from these countries will help boost the UK's economy, but, experts claim, many of these newcomers are ending up in day centres and at soup runs. A view of Victoria Coach station in the early morning will reveal scores of hopeful immigrants grabbing a few hours rest in the banks of chairs. Closer inspection will show these are not only young men looking for work but every age and gender moved to come here by desperate poverty back in their homelands. In response to traditional paranoia about immigrants 'stealing' jobs, FEANTSA is keen to point out that their plight "stands in rather stark contrast to the notion, popularly bandied about, that immigrants are favoured in relation to social housing and social welfare".
The Passage day centre in Victoria was the first to feel the rise in A8 users of their services because of its proximity to the coach station. But most day centres now have a smattering of East Europeans. One day centre worker told The Pavement: "It's hard, because we can't offer them much, but usually send them on to their (relevant) national community centres who are already overburdened. All we can do is offer the basics to them." Most are left with no state support, little hope of improvement, and no means of supporting themselves. The only services that are easing the problem are soup runs in areas such as Victoria, which are to many the only source of nourishment. Until central Government tackles this problem it is up to our readers to do what they always do - look out for your fellow man, wherever their origins, and exercise tolerance.
Source: The Pavement