Romanians back to blight Marble Arch
“Nuisance”: Romanian travellers huddle together on the grass in Park Lane.
Romanian travellers have once again descended on Marble Arch, fuelling concerns of a repeat of the long- running saga that blighted the area last summer.
Pictures taken by an Evening Standard photographer show a group of a dozen or so huddled together, lounging on a patch of grass in Park Lane, with suitcases and bags in tow.
In other images, they can be seen napping in sleeping bags or drinking cups of tea and smoking.
It is not clear if these latest arrivals are part of the gang of about 50 beggars that set up a makeshift shelter and repeatedly returned to the tourist spot in the run-up to London 2012, despite regular intervention by Westminster council and the police to remove them.
That group was said have been bussed in by organised crime syndicates before the Games with instructions to work pre-allocated “pitches” as beggars, pickpockets and prostitutes.
Witnesses reported other crimes, including knife-point robberies, as well as a host of antisocial activities, including urinating in the street.
There were also fears that young children were being forced to work as beggars, and a number of prams and pushchairs were spotted at the camp.
The news of the travellers’ return comes amid fears of a large influx of Romanian — and Bulgarian — nationals when EU labour market restrictions on the two countries are lifted next year.
Today Londoners expressed their concern at the prospect of a resurgence of last summer’s problems.
Tom Stanley, 27, from north London, who works in finance and regularly visits the city centre, said: “I’m not surprised they have come back, but they should not be allowed to stay.
“It’s a public place where people can go and sit or enjoy their lunch. It makes the area look bad when tourists come.” Lizzie Ferguson, 35, from west London, who works in sales, also objected, saying: “It’s not fair for people to be hassled when they are in the area.”
In keeping with last year’s tough stance, Westminster council responded to the news with a strong message, vowing to do everything within its power to solve the problem. Councillor Audrey Lewis said: “All our intelligence suggests these are not people who have come to Britain to make a contribution to society.
“They are not seeking our help in any way and instead are proving to be an unsightly nuisance for people living nearby and our many visitors and tourists. So we are well aware of this ongoing problem and our officers are using every legal avenue open to clear them from the area.
“This includes, where appropriate, continuing with Operation Cherfornak, which is aimed at tackling aggressive beggars. At the same time our safer neighbourhood teams and crime reduction service are pursuing Asbos and exclusion orders in an effort to deal with them.”
The travellers declined to comment when they were approached by the Standard