Foreigners flock to Boston, but find no safety net

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The Independent Online

Rolling up his trouser legs to show off the bruises, Jimmy described how he had been stopped by four men and beaten with an iron bar last week. It was the second time he had been attacked in a month, having fallen foul of a group of recently arrived fellow Lithuanians.

"They said I will kill you, I will smash you and break you legs," said the painter and decorator, who has been in Britain for six years. He believes he is being targeted because he has integrated with the local English-speaking community and says the police are doing nothing to help him.

Some estimates suggest that there are up to 15,000 foreign nationals working in Boston (population 60,000). Not that visitors are anything new here. The oldest grave in St Botolph's churchyard belongs to a 14th-century Baltic trader. But today most live separate lives from the indigenous population, keeping within their own national groups.

The Brazilians, Portuguese, Poles, Lithuanian, Russians and Latvians originally came for the agricultural work, picking and packaging vegetables from surrounding farms.

Not all can find a job, and locals have complained that groups of men and women have been sleeping rough and drinking in public. There is little in the way of a safety net. The discovery of the body of 54-year-old Skaidrite Timosina last week is said to be the fourth such death in two years.

Yet relations between the communities are still good, admits English Democrat councillor Elliott Fountain, who hopes to run as the town's mayor. "People aren't angry at the east Europeans. But even the foreigners don't want more foreigners here," he said.