A GROUP of migrants have been living in a UK “car park camp” of dumped motors for more than a decade, a Sun investigation can reveal.
The Romanian men and women bed down each night in ten untaxed vehicles, parked next to a busy retail park in a London street.
Officials have tried to move them on but many return each day to the site, where they tout for cash-in-hand labouring work.
The bleak picture of migrant life in the UK was summed up by one regular, Andre, who said he has lived there for eight years.
He said: “The money is much better here than in Romania.
“A day’s pay here could take a week to earn back home. Living in a car is not a great life, but we don’t have any choice. And it’s still better than Romania.”
Andre, 29, revealed he funnels most of his cash back home and does not plan to stay in the UK for ever. He added: “When I go back I will be rich. That’s when I will have a better life.”
Our probe began after a tip-off about the battered cars, which sit between a retail park housing branches of B&Q, Halfords and Pets at Home, and an Asda store.
Around 20 men spend their days loitering and looking for building work, with some picking up benefits on the side.
But at night they sleep in the cars, dropping the front seats to create makeshift mattresses.
Many of the vehicles have flat tyres and their windows taped over — or painted jet black — to block out the early morning sun.
Eight are untaxed and a ninth is registered as off the road. But wardens and council bosses appear to have taken little action.
Duvets, towels and blankets keep the migrants warm at night.
All bar one of the motors — which include Vauxhalls, Citroens and Fords — have British plates.
But they have sparked complaints over anti-social behaviour and noise from locals near the street, just off the Old Kent Road in Peckham, South East London.
The Sun watched a handful of migrants swigging whisky from miniature bottles at 7.30am shortly after they had woken up.
Several of the cars had beer bottles littered under their wheels and kids’ bikes are locked up on a patch of wasteland nearby.
The owners of the retail park have even brought in dog handlers armed with video cameras to reassure customers.
One security guard said: “Some of these guys have been here for years. I had sympathy with them when I started, but we’ve had problems with cars broken into.
“They’re happy to sleep rough. But they shouldn’t be living like this — it’s sad.”
Andre said the men made up to £250 a day by helping to construct flat-pack sheds and doing building work “off the books”.
And he revealed many preferred to work under the radar, without compulsory health and safety training or Construction Skills Certification Scheme cards.
He said the group posted look-outs to give them an early warning if police turned up.
Married dad-of-three Ioan Canalos, 44, told us through a translator: “I was a driver back home but the wages were really low and I couldn’t support my family.
“That’s why I came here. I do as much work as I can and send money home. I’d rather do that and sleep in a car than pay rent.
“I go to Romania every few months to visit, then come back here. Most of the guys do that.”
The men said they survived by eating cheap food and drinking 49p energy drinks. Asked how they kept clean, one joked: “It rains here sometimes, doesn’t it?”
Recent statistics show one in five rough sleepers in London is now Romanian — the highest number from any foreign country.
That is 90 per cent up on last year. Officially some 175,000 Romanians are in the UK, but the Office for National Statistics admits the total is likely to be far higher.
Last night a B&Q spokeswoman said: “We are aware of this issue and continue to work with the landlord’s representatives, local authorities and other tenants to discourage the use of the car park as a meeting point.”
Councillor Michael Situ, Cabinet Member for Communities and Safety at Southwark Council, said: “We have received some complaints from residents, so the council is working with the police, Home Office and local charities to address some of these issues.
“However, this is a fluid situation with different people arriving and departing each week, and won’t be solved overnight.
“All agencies involved are working to resolve the matter, as well as regularly visiting the site to deal with short-term issues like removing untaxed and unlicensed cars.”