Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Jailing of homeless Polish squatter for six months ‘unjust’

Anti-racism campaigners have condemned the jailing of a homeless man who squatted in an flat over Christmas to avoid the freezing weather.

Robert Lewandowski (29) used keys stolen weeks earlier to move into the south Belfast flat once a woman who lived there left for the holiday period.

The Polish national was said to have taken nothing during a four-day stay when he used a stove, watched TV and cleaned up after himself.

Last week, Lewandowski pleaded guilty to theft and wrongfully taking possession of the property at Tates Avenue between December 24 and 28. Jailing him for six months, District Judge Ken Nixon said the theft and entry was without justification.

Flair Campbell, spokesman for the West Against Racism Network in Belfast, said: “What was ‘unjustifiable’ in this case was the jailing of this vulnerable man, not his actions in squatting in a flat for a few days during temperatures of -10C degrees.”

Mr Campbell compared the case to that of Oksana Sukhanova, a Ukrainian migrant worker who ended up homeless in Ballymoney over Christmas 2004. As a result she contracted severe frostbite and had both legs partially amputated.

“The reality is that the situation for the homeless has not changed since Oksana Sukhanova’s case,” he said.

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