• Short Summary

    An estimated 50,000 squatters are causing embarrassment to British authorities through their unauthorised occupation of empty dwellings.

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    Suggest coupling the script with the enclosed Reuter, saying that the move to oust Britain's X-000 squatters begin in London, when 200 squatters and heir families face a High Court to order to quit their squatting commune in London's Elgin Avenue.....etc.etc.

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: An estimated 50,000 squatters are causing embarrassment to British authorities through their unauthorised occupation of empty dwellings.

    With the legal position on squatting regarded as hazy, authorities are often torn between sympathy for those genuinely needing accommodation and others who seek to take advantage of the situation, for political or personal motives.

    The law on squatting dates to the 14th century. In many cases police are powerless to act unless landlords can prove criminal damage.

    Publicised abuses include cases of householders returning from holiday to find themselves shut out of their own home by squatters.

    Pressing for corrective legislation is Conservative member of parliament Mr Robert McCrindle, who says the ranks of squatters have been swollen by foreigners -- Australians, Americans and Europeans -- gleefully seizing the change of a rent-free stay in Britain.

    "We don't want the message to get around that London is a place where you can come and live rent-free in a grand house near Buckingham Places," said Mr McCrindle.

    He is preparing a bill that would allow police to move against squatters by proving they interfered with a landlord's enjoyment of his property.

    The debate is at its height in London, a city of 7,500,000 where it is estimated that one of every 300 residents is a squatter.

    With housing desperately short and prices soaring astronomically, thousands of young people are driven to desperation by the need for somewhere to live. But it is often hard to distinguish genuine cases from so-called "scroungers" or political activists trying to shatter the social system.

    The London Evening News said a new breed of squatters appeared to have taken over central London and given it a "nasty face."
    "Many of them are foreign scroungers, here for social security benefits and free accommodation," the newspaper said after an investigation.

    Mr McCrindle estimated foreigners form 30 per cent of the squatters.

    London authorities estimated that some one million people are waiting for homes. Some of them, generally young and with a family, sometimes "squat" with tacit official approval.

    "We have sympathy with such squatters," a council spokesman said. "But the smash-and-grab artists must be got rid of because they deprive more deserving people of a home."
    Squatting has been part of London's housing scene since the return of soldiers from World Wars I and II when some of them took over deserted and bombed-out homes because nothing else was available.

    The modern, more organised "squats-in" started in the late 1960s, a lack of housing again giving the initial impetus.

    Booklets are available listing buildings suitable for squatters, generally produced by politically organised groups.

    Shelter, an organisation specialising in housing homeless people, has little sympathy with the view that squatters are mainly hippies and lay abouts.

    "The majority of people squatting are doing so because they cannot get accommodation," Shelter spokesman Mr Chris Holmes said.

    Shelter estimates 100,000 empty houses in London are not used because of bureaucratic delays.

    Place of filming is Elgin Avenue, Westminster where 200 squatters and their children are living. Some have been there three years. The nose for he story is that they have all been served with high court summonses fore eviction. The preliminary hearing was on August 7 and the hearing proper is August 20. The squatters expect the eviction orders sought by the GLC to be granted. They propose to barricade themselves in the houses is necessary but their more realistic view is that they will all be out on the street quite soon. At which time they will look round for some place else to squat.

    The spokesman on film is named PIERS CORBYN, 28, physics graduate of Imperial College London.

    The American on film is named Tom Kalles from California, aged 26.

    The woman is a Mrs O'Donnell

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