Police seek extra cash to cope with migrant workers

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Police chiefs today called for more Government cash to cope with problems posed by an influx of migrant workers following the broadening of the European Union.

Senior officers in Cambridgeshire said ministers were not taking account of the effect a rise in immigration was having on policing.

Chief Constable Julie Spence said parts of Cambridgeshire had become a staging post for immigrants - partly because farm work was readily available - and more officers were needed.

"We've been short-changed for a number of years, losing money as the population continues to grow," she said.

"The profile of the county has changed dramatically and this simply isn't taken into account when Government allocates funding.

"We now deal with people from many different countries, speaking more than 90 different languages.

"While the economic benefits of growth are clear we need to maintain the basic public services infrastructure which means increasing the number of officers we have."

Mrs Spence said the effect of immigration growth seeped into all areas of policing.

Foreigners got into difficulties because they were unfamiliar with traffic laws; investigations into crime could involve trips abroad to interview relatives; police had also noticed a growth in prostitution - driven by the influx of large numbers of single men.

She said bills for interpreters employed to help police process suspects and question witnesses had shot up.

Last year the TUC and the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) called for a national strategy to help migrant workers settle.

Officials wanted better co-ordination between agencies providing employment, health, education and housing services.

Two years ago a report by EEDA said immigrants could account for more than one in 50 workers in eastern England.

Research showed that between 50,000 and 80,000 of the region's 2.8 million "economically-active" people were migrant workers - and they contributed about £360 million a year to the economy, said EEDA.

The report said there was a "growing reliance" on migrant workers.

In 2004 a report by Norfolk County Council and Norfolk police said immigrants working in fields and factories in west Norfolk were often victims of extortion, racism and crime.

Gangmasters were capitalising on Chinese and Portuguese immigrants who had surged into areas surrounding King's Lynn, Swaffham and Thetford in recent years.

The report said between 1,000 and 1,500 Chinese migrants had moved into King's Lynn in the previous year and it estimated that around 6,000 Portuguese temporary workers were living in and around Thetford and Swaffham.

There had been several incidents of "racially motivated crime perpetuated against the Portuguese population" and Chinese people were regularly victims of racially motivated assault, verbal abuse, street robbery and damage to property, said researchers.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said: "The way ministers fund local public services, including the police, makes it incredibly difficult for communities to cope with the rapid changes in population that can be caused by immigration.

"It takes years for the extra money to come through from the Government for areas with high immigration, so it is no wonder the police can find themselves struggling.

"Immigration is enormously important to Britain, but the Government needs to plan for its impact, instead of indulging in the usual mix of media-driven populism and administrative incompetence."

Home Office Minister Liam Byrne said in a statement: "It's vital that we take the social impact of immigration into account when we make migration decisions.

"It's because we want to hear voices like Julie Spence's that I set up the Migration Impacts Forum, so public services can help shape our tough points system which is introduced in around 150 days time. The forum includes representatives from the police, local authorities, CBI and TUC.

"It's also important that those we welcome into the UK to work and settle here understand our traditions, learn English and use our language.

"At present, people who seek to come to the UK permanently, or as highly skilled workers are required to speak English. As the Home Secretary has said, we will be looking at extending this requirement to those coming to the UK to do lesser and low skilled work as well."

Home Office officials said police had "benefited from a significant increase in resources over the last decade".

They said spending on police services had risen by nearly £5 billion from £6.2 billion to £11 billion since 1997.