Aslyum-seekers have been accused of all manner of ills in society, from making false claims for sanctuary to begging aggressively and forming organised gangs. Yesterday two tabloid newspapers claimed that they had been trapping swans for barbecues.
But appearances can be deceptive. The reports stated that a "major investigation" had been launched after an "official Metropolitan Police report" blamed "Eastern European gangs".
The situation had become so dire that Enfield police were being forced to patrolling the river Lee to safeguard the Queen's fowl.
But yesterday Scotland Yard stated: "There is no police report." While there is concern fuelled by a drop in the swan population, the police spokeswoman added: "There appears to be a perception that this may be attributable to Eastern Europeans. We stress we have no evidence of this."
An advice sheet had been circulated by the Met's wildlife unit to police stations, warning of an "apparent" disappearance of swans because of the "perception" among certain members of the public that their number had fallen.
The leaflet stated that no specific allegations had been made but asked officers to be vigilant as the mute swan was a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It went on to say that some people believed Eastern European gangs were responsible for dwindling numbers.
"There is no official Met report. This is the work of one individual who has basically been looking at it and sent out an advice sheet," said a police spokeswoman. She added that, despite some efforts, they could not back up published claims that asylum-seekers had been caught in east London barbecuing a duck with dead swans concealed near by "ready to be roasted".
Andy Fisher, head of the wildlife investigation unit, appeared equally baffled. "I don't know where they have got that from - not the Metropolitan Police."
Andy Keeling of Enfield council said: "I would not call it an urban myth as plenty of people appear to be noticing a drop in swans. But our council parks officers had had no reports of anybody seen killing swans. You know what rumours are. It is easy to point the finger at asylum-seekers and not so easy to get any kind of evidence. We simply have not got it. If anybody does we would want to hear from them."Reuse content