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Four out of five people prosecuted for squatting in London are foreign

10Four in five squatters prosecuted in London since the introduction of legislation making it a criminal offence were from overseas, figures show.
Metropolitan Police statistics reveal that 211 people — including two 65-year-olds and 20 teenagers — have been taken to court for squatting in a residential building since the law came into effect in September 2012. They include 43 Britons, but most of those charged were foreigners.
The largest contingent was from eastern Europe, accounting for more than 60 per cent of those detained and including 62 Romanians, 42 Poles and 10 Lithuanians. Squatters from elsewhere included seven Spaniards, four Nigerians, two Nepalese, two Somalians, a Colombian, a Jamaican and an American. None of the squatters prosecuted were from Syria, Iraq or other countries, such as Eritrea and Afghanistan, that are at the centre of Europe’s migrant crisis. The statistics were obtained by the Standard via a Freedom of Information request.
They will allay fears expressed when the anti-squatting law was passed that it would criminalise a large number of homeless Britons. They also reveal that the rate of prosecutions is now lower than at any point since the legislation was introduced.
Ministers brought in the law following complaints from homeowners about properties being taken over and damaged by organised groups whose members were squatting as a “lifestyle” choice, as well as those who were genuinely homeless.

Today a Met spokeswoman said: “Awareness of police powers to deal with squatting has perhaps both increased confidence in homeowners who become victims and acted as a deterrent to potential offenders.
“There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that there has been an increase in squatting in non-residential premises [which is not covered by the new legislation]. But there is no firm information as this remains a civil matter.”
Today’s figures show that the number of cases under the new law has been falling. Only 19 people were taken to court during the first six months of this year, on allegations that they had been squatting in a residential building.
That compares with 76 in the first four months following the introduction of the new law in September 2012. It is also a lower rate than last year, when 62 squatters were prosecuted, and 2013, when 52 were taken to court.
The first person to be jailed for squatting under the new law was Alex Haigh, 21, from Plymouth, who was arrested at a flat in Pimlico the day after it came into force. Westminster magistrates sentenced him to 12 weeks after he admitted occupying the housing association flat without permission.
Haigh’s parents said that they were “devastated” by his imprisonment.