As Fenland copes with 211 per cent 10 year increase in migrant population, council says it has risen to the challenge

Delamore. Fenland Horticultural Academy. Cllr Alan Melton.

Delamore. Fenland Horticultural Academy. Cllr Alan Melton. - Credit: Archant

Fenland District Council believes it has chosen the correct way to handle mass migration into the area- even though they accept many may argue that 211 per cent increase over 10 years has put services at breaking point.

A range of initiatives has been put in motion to tackle the complexity of issues such migration has brought to Fenland.

Their work has included hiring two migrant population advisers, publishing ‘welcome to Fenland’ packs in different languages, setting up a tension monitoring group even assisting with 33 voluntary repatriations.

Their response comes after a study by the Oxford University’s Migration Observatory

shows that Fenland has the fourth biggest increase in migrants moving to the area out of all the regions in the country.

Council Leader Alan Melton said: “We recognise the many challenges posed by the rising number of migrants arriving in Fenland over the past decade or so and we continue to be very active in tackling them.

“Our work includes providing practical advice and support, liaising with other partners to foster good community relations, and helping to combat abuses and exploitation, particularly through Operation Pheasant.”

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Cllr Melton added: “While some problems undoubtedly exist in bringing our different communities together, there are also many positive sides to the migration that has occurred.

“We know that many local businesses continue to rely heavily on migrant workers and their strong work ethic. We also value highly the contribution that their customs and traditions make to our local culture.”

The council lists what it believes is a formidable array of initiatives to help cope with the vast numbers coming into Fenland.

The council says it has:

Established Diverse Communities Forum, made up of partners from the statutory, community and voluntary sectors.

Some of the key activities in which we are involved through the Forum include:

Establishing a Tension Monitoring Group. Its early interventions helped minimise any adverse impact of a recent anti-immigration rally.

Community advice and guidance sessions. Run by the King’s Lynn Area Resettlement Service (KLARS) and the Rosmini Centre, these are helping more than 500 people per month access advice, information and services.

‘Welcome to Fenland’ pack, in various languages

Working with community mediators to help to resolve misunderstandings in and between the settled and Eastern European communities.

Teaching basic English. Eight sessions per week for people from an Eastern European background.

Training people who have learned English to become community translators.

Two Migrant Population Advisors at the Wisbech Fenland @ your service shop helping Eastern European families to access council services

Thomas Clarkson Academy, Wisbech. Work going on there with both teachers and pupils includes 20 students in an ‘Ambassador’ scheme acting as language and cultural advisors (a two-way process


Sham marriages, human trafficking and exploitation by rogue landlords would be an alien concept to many in Fenland a decade or so ago but they have become everyday realities.

Fenland Council says it is playing a leading role in the joint Operation Pheasant (working with the police, Home Office, Gangmaster Licensing Authority, HM Revenue and Customs, the Department of Work and Pensions and the UK Human Trafficking Centre).

A council spokesman said: “Its work is focused on combating problems in the private rented sector (including, but not exclusively, HMOs), particularly widespread exploitation by rogue landlords.”

Its continuing effectiveness, says the spokesman, is attracting increasing interest from beyond Fenland – including from the Metropolitan Police, the London borough of Newham and the London Fire Service.

The council says that its achievements this yea alone included:

Uncovering numerous shocking examples of overcrowding and numerous safety hazards.

Assisting with 33 voluntary repatriations

Taking action over at least six cases of human trafficking, with others currently being pursued

Prosecuting several cases of sham marriages

Weekly visits to targeted properties