Romanian Roma Driven From London’s West End In Dawn Raid
By Jessica Elgot, (19/07/2013)
Romanian Roma in London’s West End, who have been begging and sleeping rough on the grass under Marble Arch, were the targets of a dawn raid by police on Friday, with the aid of diplomats.
More than 60 Roma have been camped out along Park Lane, opposite some of London’s most expensive hotels and properties, for the last few weeks. Police pounced at 4am, backed by border officials,
Romanian authorities and homelessness workers.
Carrying their possessions under their arms, with many of the women pictured sobbing,
the Roma were offered free flights to return home immediately, with around 20 accepting a flight that departs Friday afternoon. The rest have been given 30 days to leave the country.
Operation Chefornak has been targeting rough sleeping, begging and crime committed by homeless Roma communities in Westminster, with raids already carried out across Bloomsbury.
Nickie Aiken from Westminster City Council said in a statement: “The squares, gardens and subways of London are for the people who live, work and visit here – not for hijacking by groups of people who have no intention of contributing to the city.
Residents and businesses are fed up with small encampments springing up with the mess and disturbance that follow in their wake.”
Upon their return to Bucharest, the nationals will be offered assistance by authorities, the Romanian embassy told HuffPost UK.
“The attendance of the Embassy’s representatives to the Chefornak operation was considered by the British authorities extremely useful, and is part of a set of measures that our Embassy has initiated, aiming to tackle the problems of those homeless with Romanian,” Dr Ion Jinga told HuffPost UK.
“In their overwhelming majority Romanians living in London are well integrated and enjoy the respect of the British citizens and it is utterly unacceptable that this respect be overshadowed by isolated antisocial behaviours.”
The embassy, he said was keen to “protect the good reputation of the overwhelming majority of Romanian citizens living in the United Kingdom who work hard, pay taxes and are highly valued by their employers and British colleagues.”
A crackdown on homeless Eastern Europeans begging and stealing has stepped up in recent months.
Last month, immigration officials raided a camp of Romanian squatters at the former Hendon FC ground.
More than 20 agreed to take up the offer of free flights home.
Police officers from Poland, Romania and Lithuania have joined patrols in the UK to help clamp down on criminal gangs from eastern Europe.
The officers have done spot checks on cars and driver’s documents to find criminals who have fled arrest in their home countries. More than 50 people have already been arrested, the BBC reported.