Roma Gypsies targeted in Marble Arch dawn raid

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Media captionResidents have complained about anti-social behaviour

More than 60 Roma Gypsies sleeping rough and begging in central London have been targeted in a dawn raid.

The group at the Marble Arch end of Park Lane in Westminster was surrounded at about 04:00 BST by Home Office officials and the Met Police.

Their immigration status was checked and all were offered free flights to Romania. About 20 accepted with some flying out on Friday afternoon.

Those who did not may be issued with a 30 days notice to leave the country.

'Hijacking' areas

The raid was part of Operation Chefornak which has been targeting rough sleeping, begging and associated criminality within Roma communities in Westminster, the Metropolitan Police said.

It added that since 8 July, 20 people had voluntarily returned to Romania as part of the operation.

Nickie Aiken from Westminster City Council said: "The squares, gardens and subways of London are for the people who live, work and visit here - not for hijacking by groups of people who have no intention of contributing to the city.

"Residents and businesses are fed up with small encampments springing up with the mess and disturbance that follow in their wake."

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