Report says migration is causing pressures

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LONDON, Oct 17 (Reuters) Immigration from eastern Europe has led to increased problems for housing, health services and crime, a government report said today.

The Migration Impacts Forum (MIF), set up earlier this year to assess the social impact of migration, found that the increased numbers coming to the country had created problems for public services.

The report comes a day after the Home Office published a separate review on the economic impact of migration in which it said migration had been of great benefit and had not affected Britons' job prospects.

The Home Office said migration had added 6 billion pounds to the economy last year and that most employers found migrants were better skilled than their British counterparts and more productive.

The MIF presentation examined what effect migration from the eight countries that joined the EU in 2004 had had on five areas: crime, community cohesion, housing, health and education, across eight UK regions.

All but one reported difficulties with housing, although many of the problems related to the migrants themselves, some of whom were found to be living in poor, crowded homes or facing exploitation from unscrupulous landlords.

The East Midlands and Scotland noted an emerging problem with homelessness amongst migrants.

Health was also an issue for six regions, with some areas saying there had been an increase in demand for GPs and for interpreters.

Three regions also said there were problems of hospital emergency departments being used instead of GPs.

Most areas also reported difficulties with education, with a need for more English teaching, and with crime.

''Areas noted that there had been reports of increases in certain low level crimes, such as driving offences (e.g. uninsured vehicles, driving without a seatbelt) and anti-social behaviour,'' the presentation said.

Community cohesion was the area with the fewest observations.

''This either means that there was little impact here or that it was most difficult to measure,'' the presentation said, although three regions noted there had been suggestions of tensions in areas which had not experienced this before.

Today's report follows a promise from Immigration Minister Liam Byrne to ''strike a new balance in Britain's migration policy''.

''We know migration added about 6 billion pounds to our economy last year, but we know of wider impacts too,'' he said.

''What we need to do is strike the right balance for Britain's national interest, starting with the decision on Bulgarian and Romanian workers a little later this year.'' However the Conservatives said the government was ignoring the long-term consequences of immigration.

They said they would impose an explicit, annual quota on the number of migrants from outside the EU.

REUTERS RN ND1410

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