I first met the Lithuanians when a 9yr old boy came into my husband’s jewellers shop with his granny.
The boy pointed to the tiny slithers of gold in his grandma’s ears and asked in a heavy accent “Please, you buy this?”
There was a couple of quid’s worth of gold in her ears and I guessed that the reason for selling them was because they needed survival money.
Now, I have all kinds of tricks for getting people to take food off me. “I’m about to throw all this food away because I’m having a new kitchen fitted” or “My freezer has broken and I don’t have anywhere to store all this ” etc etc but on this occasion I didn’t have time for trickery.
The next customer could have arrived at any minute and I didn’t want anyone to overhear or humiliate these people. We also had a slight language barrier so I simply blurted out to the boy “Do you need food?” while making hand to mouth motions.
The boy nodded. I told him to wait and then I went into the canteen to fill some bags.
When I handed the food over I asked the boy if I could have their address so I could deliver more to them later that night.
The boy translated for his grandma and she nodded her consent.
That night it was my turn to do the Lidl run (where we sort and collect the end of day waste to take the decent fruit and veg along with all the leftover bakery). There was absolutely tons of stuff and I had to ram every inch of space in my massive people carrier to fit it all in. There were also dozens of pizzas and apple tarts as the staff had just emptied a freezer for a change in line.
When I arrived at the Lithuanians house I found seven family members at home. They all grabbed my hands and started kissing them in thanks. The children screamed and cried when they saw the pizza and apple tarts. They were so, so grateful. How fantastic is that?
Well actually, it’s shit. There is nothing fantastic about having your hands kissed and seeing children cry because you’ve brought them food from the bins. It is all utter shit.
I took food and clothing to the Lithuanians for months and gradually, through Google translate I discovered their story.
Now I know that as an MP you may be worrying that the Lithuanians came here because England was an easy place to claim benefits and you’ll want to do something about that.
Believe me, you need to be aware of the truth and you need to know how to stop them coming here.
They came here after seeing an ad in a paper in Lithuania. The ad said there was plentiful work and cheap housing here in Pendle.
First, just a couple of family members arrived and found work in a local factory. More family members came and then their children.
They worked in the factory and earned their money to pay their rent (not cheap at all but overpriced and pretty rubbish like most of the rental properties here) and then . . .
the seasonal work at the factory tailed off and they were all out of work. With no money and no rights and no one to give a damn.
So, that’s how they came to be in my husband’s shop which was a pretty lucky thing as they didn’t know I had access to food and help for them.
But I worried about them being evicted because I knew they couldn’t pay the rent. I was in the local Co-op when the eldest (just turned 17) daughter came in and was refused alcohol. She didn’t see me and asked the cashier if her ‘husband’ could buy it. The cashier refused because she knew it was being bought for the girl and that the girl was underage.
The ‘husband’ spoke no Lithuanian and the girl spoke no more than a couple of words of English. This was not a normal relationship. I also knew that the ‘husband’ was known to the police and why.
Shaking, whilst trying to keep calm because I didn’t want to put her (or me) in danger, I told her to go home.
The next day I called the Police. But I need to ask, who was the more guilty, the agency and employers advertising in Eastern Europe so they could get cheap labour or the ‘husband’?
When Corbyn says he wants to put an end to agencies advertising for labour in Eastern Europe this is what he wants to stop. There are great big, fuck off life consequences of attracting people to England for cheap labour and then abandoning them and as you will know, they can only claim benefits for a few weeks unless they can prove they have a genuine prospect of work. This is how people get stuck here without any income and no chance of being able to afford to get back to their home country.
So, while £4 million has just been found to further fund a local industrial estate, don’t you think it’s about time you found out just how scrupulous the companies are who are benefitting from that investment?