Hackney Council’s ‘go home’ sign to immigrants sparks row

Council chiefs have been accused of trying to “cleanse” a Stamford Hill park of Polish workers and other European immigrants who are sleeping rough there by putting up a sign urging them to “call this number” if they want to go home.

Bushes that were used as shelters by the homeless immigrants have also been dramatically cut back.

In 2007, the Gazette revealed how Polish workers were coming to blows over public-toilet cubicles in the area because it cost just 20p a night to stay in them.

The sign in Allen’s Gardens, Bethune Road, which is in English, Polish and Russian, says camping is forbidden and that any belongings left in the park will be “disposed of as rubbish”.

It goes on say that people should call the phone number provided “if you are from central and eastern Europe and need advice on how to return home, as well as information about the support services available within your home country”.

The number belongs to the London Reconnection Project (LRP), a scheme run by homelessness charity Thames Reach to help people who immigrated to the UK in search of a better life, but ended up destitute.

A 61-year-old resident, who lives near the park but declined to be named, said she was shocked when she noticed the sign last week.

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“With the Olympics coming up, I think they want to ‘cleanse’ the area,” she said. “So many people round here are first or second generation immigrants, and we’re a very tolerant bunch of people. We don’t really mind. It would be different if they were criminals.”

She was upset the vegetation was cut back saying the park feels “horrible and sterile”, and added: “Why they had to destroy our park for this I don’t know.”

A Hackney Police spokeswoman said Lordship Safer Neighbourhood Team was aware homeless people, most of whom are Polish builders, sleep in the park, particularly during the summer.

“We have not had any complaints of antisocial behaviour,” she said. “The team can report that there has not been any trouble in the park. Litter is the main issue.”

But Cllr Jonathan McShane, cabinet member for health, social care and culture, said: “Recently there have been incidents of antisocial behaviour, and at the request of Police Community Support Officers, hedges and shrubbery were cut back to make it easier to see in and around the park.

“Visits were made by the council to discuss support with anyone sleeping in the park, and advice posters were put up giving a number to call.”