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Destitution increases amongst Central and Eastern Europeans

25% of people sleeping on London’s streets are from the 8 accession countries

13th February 2009: In London, there is an increase in the number of destitute people from Central and Eastern Europe, a new report reveals.

The report by Homeless Link shows an increase in the percentage of rough sleepers from the eight accession countries from 18% to 25% of people sleeping on London’s streets.

While the number of Central and Eastern European rough sleepers has reduced in several of the inner London boroughs that have had long standing issues with this population and taken action to address the issue, numbers have increased significantly in some outer London areas.

Jenny Edwards, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, the national umbrella organisation for frontline homelessness charities, said, “The results of our research have wide reaching implications not only for homelessness charities, but also local and national Government. While the majority of migrants from Central and Eastern Europe successfully find employment and accommodation in this country, it is unacceptable that some should find themselves forced into destitution on our streets as a result of restrictions to their social benefits and without the wherewithal to return home.”

When the EU expanded in 2004, certain limitations were placed on the entitlements of citizens from 8 out of 10 of the accession countries: Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Edwards observed that the report comes at a time of extreme financial uncertainty for many of their member agencies when their services are under real pressure as a result of the economic conditions.

“We are extremely disappointed therefore that, despite the hard work of Homeless Link and member agencies to try to find solutions, the research demonstrates an increase in the proportion of people from the accession countries sleeping on the streets of London. Some of the most significant initiatives to address this issue in Central London have only started since the survey was completed. Obviously we hope they will go some way to addressing this social problem, but more needs to be done.”

Communities and Local Government (CLG) recognise this issue and have provided funding to some London boroughs to help them tackle rough sleeping among A10 nationals.

Edwards continued, “Results from other studies across Europe indicate a growing problem in other European cities. We welcome this commitment from CLG and believe that this will have a real impact. However growing destitute street homelessness requires a wider acceptance of responsibility in Government and local government. Recent CLG initiatives support the Prime Minister’s recent commitment to ‘step up efforts to tackle rough sleeping among new migrant populations’. However, we call on the European Union to ensure that all national governments across Europe rapidly commit to ensuring a safety net of protection that ensures everyone has the basic human right of a roof over their head, a meal on the table and the ability to return home.”

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