For hundreds of years, ships set sail from Chatham’s Royal Dockyards to extend and enforce British power and influence around the globe. Now the world has come to Chatham.Shop fronts on the southern English port town’s busy high street advertise foods from Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Turkey and SIM cards offering cheap international calls, while halal butchers and kebab grills vie for customers alongside traditional pubs, fish and chip shops and Indian and Chinese takeaways.
Such cultural diversity has become commonplace in many British towns since 2004, when the expansion of the European Union brought an influx of workers from Poland and other central and eastern European countries.
Emil, a teenage Roma boy born in the Czech Republic, moved to Chatham with his family eight years ago, having been brought to the UK by his parents as a toddler. Since leaving school he has found work in a greengrocer’s shop and dreams of one day running his own fruit and vegetable business.
“It’s better here. In the Czech Republic you can’t really earn enough money to enjoy life. Our people have nothing,” he said. Like most migrants that Al Jazeera spoke to, Emil did not want to give his full name.