Using a rusting pair of scissors to trim his greying beard, Vasile declares his love for the Queen.
‘It is the Queen who helps and protects her people,’ he says, brushing the hair clippings from the duvet under which he has been sleeping rough.
‘The Queen cares for her people — everyone knows that. That is why we came from Romania, so she can help us, too.’
The 52-year-old Roma gipsy is one of about 30 Romanians sleeping on a now grubby patch of grass on a central reservation in London’s Park Lane near Marble Arch.
The rag-tag encampment with rows of soiled duvets, battered suitcases and cardboard boxes is in stark contrast to the nearby luxury car showrooms and pristine Georgian terraces.
As the city comes to life shortly after dawn, bare feet are thrust into grimy trainers and flip-flops, and lighters flare as the first cigarettes of the day are sparked up.
The younger women are dispatched to get coffee from a café while the older women roll up the duvets and cram them into dustbin liners. Early morning joggers in Hyde Park have to dodge the Romanians who have gone to find a secluded spot to use as a toilet.
Vasile, a stocky man with deep brown skin, grins to reveal a solitary crooked tooth. He acts as leader of the group and with a single wave of his hand silences younger men who dare to speak.
‘We want to find work. We did not come here to commit crime or beg,’ he says. ‘At the moment the only thing we do all day is scavenge for food in the rubbish bins.
‘We hope that someone from the Government will intervene and give us work and shelter, somewhere to live.’
Despite his protestations, it is believed that some of the Romanians beg on the streets of the West End. They have also been linked to pickpocketing gangs, as well as age-old scams such as pretending to have found a ‘gold’ ring on the street which they then sell for £20 to someone gullible.
Philippa Roe, leader of Westminster City Council, says: ‘There is an influx of these Romanians every year and it is a source of absolute frustration. The Government has to do more.
'I think we are particularly vulnerable and the UK may be an easy touch compared to other countries. There’s also a sense of intimidation with aggressive begging.
‘It is costing the council a huge amount of money to tackle the problem and that’s money we do not have. The residents and business community are not happy.’
Vasile, a father of four, arrived from Botosani, northern Romania, by bus at Victoria coach station just over a month ago. He and his family decided to sleep rough in Marble Arch because it is near a series of subways that offer shelter if it rains.
The open-borders policy means they can enter Britain legally and then have three months to prove they can support themselves. If not, the UK Border Agency can have them removed.
Many people are concerned that the crisis of Eastern Europeans living on the streets will deepen from January 2014 when all 29 million citizens of Romania and Bulgaria gain full rights to live, work and claim benefits here under EU ‘freedom of movement’ rules.
Vasile, who refused to give his full name, remains determined to stay in the capital over the summer.
‘I haven’t been stopped by the police,’ he says. ‘London is very beautiful. Perhaps the Queen will drive past us one day and take pity on us. That is what we hope.’