EC: CONTINENT faces migrant invasion.

EC: CONTINENT faces migrant invasion. - To have-nots, the EC is the dream. But it could be a nightmare. Peter Wilsher.

To have-nots, the EC is the dream. But it could be a nightmare. Peter Wilsher.

In Brussels these days, the maid who opens the door of your hostess's expensive inner-city apartment is no longer the invariable Filipino of earlier years; she is at least as likely to be a smartly dressed Polish girl from Katowice or Lodz. But if, as is probable in this case, she has the required purse-full of visas, work permits and assorted accreditation, then she is a rare exception. Most members of Europe's swelling immigrant army have little time for papers and official procedures: their priority is to get inside those increasingly unwelcoming EC walls and then make it as difficult as possible for the harassed authorities to pry them loose.

Along the Oder River, that marks the frontier between Poland and the old East Germany, thousands of men (and a handful of women and teenage children) are camped in the woods, patiently waiting a chance to slip across. To make it from there, though, you need transport, local knowledge and probably a professional guide, which costs money. Further south, the Neisse is in some places possible to wade across (if you can dodge the frontier police who have orders to crack down hard and fast on anyone with wet trouser legs). And in tugged Czechoslovakia, a growing number of desperate youngsters are ready to risk the hazardous night trek across the mountains that mark the German border. In most cases the first target is Berlin. From there, though, they are ready to head anywhere that they see a chance to earn a precarious living. Usually they can expect to end up, at best, among the sweat shops, cheap cafes and few-questions asked building sites that make up the shadow economy.

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