John Harris

Journalist & Author

Fear and anger in once-wealthy town divided by insecurity and immigration

Effects of recession in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, were often blamed on new arrivals who, in time, actually revived town centre

The Lithuanian man I meet on my second day in Wisbech doesn’t want to tell me his name. He has lived in this Cambridgeshire market town the "capital of the Fens" for nearly eight years, but his English remains staccato and stilted. He has the leathery complexion of someone who has spent long hours outdoors, and what looks like a black eye. He tells me he spent the previous night in a shelter for the homeless; today, he has stopped by the Rosmini Centre more of which in a moment to try to get some advice, and eat.

When he first came here, he says, he worked in the fields, picking and cutting daffodils for piece rates: £5.50 for each box of 100 bundles, which could sometimes be put together in half an hour. He lived with his girlfriend in a house shared with other people, and sent money home to his daughter; when work on local farms drew to a close, local agencies then sent him to food-processing factories. And so life went on until, six months ago, he was beaten up by other Lithuanians, he says and left with four broken ribs.

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