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Migrants from Poland and the Czech Republic setting up home on Thanington Rec in Canterbury

By Alex Claridge

Remote corners of Canterbury are becoming increasingly popular as makeshift homes for eastern European migrants.

Up to 10 people are living amid disused agricultural buildings in the south of the city while two have been sleeping rough on the Thanington Rec.

A barn opposite the entrance to the Boys’ Langton in Nackington Road has been turned into a living area with mattresses stacked on top of car tyres to create beds.

A man asleep in a disused agricultural building off Nackington Road

Nearby is a stove comprised of breeze blocks with a grill in the centre, while clothing, drinks bottles and empty food packaging is strewn around the outside.

Just two men were there earlier this week.

One, who called himself Tomasz, said the men were from Poland and had been in the UK around a year.

In broken English, he said: “We came here to work, but we have no work so we stay here.”
They refused to answer further questions and did not want to be photographed.

Tomasz says other Poles are living in a shipping container 50 yards from his living area.

It was the container that we revealed in March was home to two Poles, a man and a woman, who claimed that life living rough in the UK was better than staying in Poland, where there is little chance of finding work.

A disused agricultural building off Nackington Road is home to a group of Polish people
Beds are made up in the disused building

Two other men from the Czech Republic are staying in sleeping bags under trees in the far corner of Thanington Rec.

They said they had been in Canterbury about a week, but were planning to move on.

A report which went before city councillors this week suggested that a council survey recorded just 22 people living rough in Canterbury – a figure questioned by Barton ward councillor Paula Vickers.

But Cllr Joe Howes, the member for housing, insisted it was correct: “This figure has remained the same for the past three to four years.”

The living is meagre for the migrants who have set up home
Two men from the Czech Republic are living rough under a tree

Council officer Larissa Reed, whose department includes homelessness, added: “There are the street drinkers you may have seen in the city centre, and the foreign nationals who don’t tend to have the same addiction problems.

“We still have entrenched rough sleepers who we struggle to engage with. The less entrenched tend to go further afield and stay in small groups for their own safety.

“The problem we have with eastern Europeans is that many of them are brought here for work and then thrown out by their employers at the end of the season.

“We’re working with farmers and homeless charities to try and stop the cycle.”

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