The 10 years which changed Wisbech - new report reveals extent of immigration in town and Fenland as a whole
- Credit: Archant
A new report shows how Wisbech is bearing the brunt of mass immigration and the strain it places on health, housing and education
The ‘Migrant and Refugee Needs Assessment for Cambridgeshire, 2016’ reveals numbers arriving in Fenland quadrupled in the last 10 years.
“The rise in non-UK population was from 2,641 to 8,209 in Fenland and 15,268 to 37,892 in Peterborough between 2001 and 2011.”
Fenland has seen much higher levels of recent migration than any other areas of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough; 73 per cent of migrants in Fenland arrived within the past 10 years, and 43 per cent in the last five years.
The challenges don’t stop there, with new migrant GP registrations in Fenland – and mainly Wisbech – increasing 113.5 per cent from 585 in 2003/4 to 1,249 in 2013/14.
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Language, too, is an issue with 1,052 in Fenland - that’s 8.6 per cent of the population - speaking an Eastern European language; more than half speak Lithuanian - and that impacts on schools.
“The needs of Eastern European pupils in secondary school education have been identified as complex,” says the report.
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“Communication with parents can be problematic due to poor English skills and poor overall literacy skills.
“Translators are required in schools to communicate with parents.”
Other issues include excessive rates of smoking and alcohol consumption among Eastern Europeans - and the challenges this presents to health. The report says the culture of street drinking among Eastern Europeans is “a way of life” and can create community tensions.
The report highlights The Wisbech Alcohol Partnership that identified 72 people in the town centre who drink in the open area.
Most of these people were Eastern European working males of Lithuanian or Latvian origin.
Dental care among migrants is also poor, says the report, with many presenting “high levels of untreated decay when they seek treatment”.
There were 2,120 clients in drug and alcohol treatment in 2014/15. Of these, 42 or six per cent were from Eastern European countries and 60 per cent of these were in the Fenland area.
On housing the report says Wisbech has a range of issues including overcrowding, unhygienic and unsafe living conditions and illegal evictions; homelessness is on the increase.
Recommendations include boosting advice services, reviewing the GP system, and using schools to help boost social cohesion and delivering welcome packs to new arrivals.