Deals struck will help more homeless people from eastern Europe
Embassies to send home foreign rough sleepers
London embassies will fast-track travel documents and provide plane tickets for homeless eastern European nationals in a bid to reduce rough sleeping in the capital.
The Lithuanian, Czech, Polish and Romanian embassies, along with the police, the Greater London Authority, the Communities and Local Government department and homelessness charity Thames Reach, have agreed to act following talks at the end of 2011.
The embassies will work with the other organisations to send people home who are sleeping rough, cannot get work and who have become stuck in London. They will also look at ways to educate people in their home countries about the importance of arranging a job and accommodation before coming to Britain.
Figures published by charity Broadway in May 2011 show, of the 3,975 people sleeping rough on London’s streets during 2010/11, 22 per cent were from eastern European countries.
Richard Blakeway, Boris Johnson’s housing advisor, said: ‘There was good commitment from each of the embassies to prioritise this work, and help charities working on the streets, including help with translation services, prevention work and more funding, which we really welcome.’
Jeremy Swain, chief executive of Thames Reach, said the charity’s message was two-fold: ‘There are still people coming over to this country who are completely unprepared with no job and are fairly rapidly finding themselves on the streets. We want [the embassies] to help us educate people about the dangers of coming over,’ he said. ‘We also want support from the embassies to help people home when they are destitute.’
Mr Swain said Thames Reach had helped 1,500 people get back to their home country in the past 18 months.
The Polish Embassy helped 100 people who had approached it to return home last year, but will now actively target Polish rough sleepers with Thames Reach’s help. Sergiusz Volski, third secretary of the Polish Embassy in London, said: ‘We are trying to help because there are many Polish people who come here who lose their jobs. We have a budget for consular help which includes money to send people home.’
Mayor Boris Johnson’s London housing strategy aims to stop rough sleeping by the end of this year.