Portuguese Ambassador's visit to Thetford

THE successful integration of migrant populations into Thetford was recognised by a special visit from the Portuguese ambassador.

THE successful integration of migrant populations into Thetford was recognised by a special visit from the Portuguese ambassador.

His excellency Antonio Santana Carlos arrived at the Town Council offices yesterday where, commenting on the exceptionally warm weather, he was greeted by town mayor Pauline Quadling.

As he met officials from Thetford Town Council, Breckland Council and Norfolk Constabulary, he praised the town for making migrant populations feel welcome.

Migration first began in the town 13 years ago as workers from Portugal and Eastern Europe began to settle locally. Since then both Breckland and Thetford councils have established several initiatives to integrate them and their families and teach the town's residents how to work and live together.

Between 2005 and 2006, Breckland saw its population grow by more than 1,300 almost entirely because of migration from Poland, Portugal, Lithuania and other countries.

Its Portuguese population now stands at between 5,000 and 6,000.

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“I think the Portuguese here like the community and the region and I understand that,” Mr Carlos said. “I think it's a question of conditions and I think we have some leaders working closely with the community and understanding their problems and doing their upmost.

“I think the local authorities have worked very closely with the Portuguese and are fantastic in their particular fields. People are establishing contact with the authorities and supporting our communities.”

After being presented with a set of whisky glasses embellished with the Norfolk Constabulary logo by Assistant Chief Constable Simon Bailey, he was seated at the head of the table in the council chamber.

Chair of Breckland District Council, Linda Monument, said: “We know this visit is a recognition of the number of people living in Thetford and Breckland of Portuguese origin who have consented to come and live with us.

“Norfolk people are renowned for not being very quick to welcome new people to their territory but to every Portuguese resident, Breckland is your home and you and I are both very lucky.”

Over the years Breckland council had sent a number of its employees to learn Portuguese to better communicate with the migrant population, appointed a Portuguese-speaking Community Liaison Officer, made contact with various Portuguese employers and employees and held a number of social evenings.

Thetford Town Council has also held a number of events in the town to bring the communities together, including a cheese and wine night, a party between English and Portuguese youngsters and a women's group designed to build confidence.