Archive for travellers

Playing the Gypsy ‘race card’

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on Friday, 4 June, 2010 by bristolnoborders

>> Playing the Gypsy ‘race card’

> By John Grayson

4 June 2010, 2:00am

The Con-Dem coalition has started an offensive against the most marginal and disadvantaged of all Britain’s minorities, Gypsies and Travellers.

Putting aside brave new world soundbites on ‘freedom’, ‘fairness’ and civil liberties, the first wave of ‘efficiency savings’ has wiped out £30 million already offered to local authorities and housing associations to support the development of Gypsy and Traveller sites.

New Labour in their own terms had pursued a genuinely progressive policy towards the desperate need of Britain’s remaining travelling Gypsies and Travellers. John Prescott driven by the ridiculous costs to local authorities of clearing up the ‘illegal’ encampments of Gypsies and Travellers pushed for a revival of the 1960s policies of pressurising local councils to provide sites. Labour was also pushed by the European Court in Connors v UK in 2004 to do something about security of tenure on sites.[1]

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), later the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), (how we will miss the acronyms of Labour ‘governance’!) set up its ‘Gypsy and Traveller Unit’, and embarked on ‘evidence based’ policymaking by forcing local government, as part of developing Housing Needs Assessments, to commission ‘Gypsy and Travellers Accommodation Needs Assessments’ (GTANAs).

Counting Gypsies has always been fraught with racist overtones and the research was not always free from pressures from councillors and officers to make sure sites were not in their backyard. The government also issued new planning guidance circulars which, together with the results of the research showing the need for new sites and plots, was beginning to have the effect, albeit very slowly, of at least improving many of the appalling sites provided by local authorities and forcing them to plan a few more plots. A few Gypsy and Traveller families were winning planning appeals and a few were setting up their own new sites.

The scale of the Gypsy ‘problem’ is remarkably modest. We have to remember that Gypsy and Traveller families with a travelling way of life have probably just 3,729 caravans on ‘unauthorised’ sites in the whole of England, with a further 13,708 caravans on council and private sites.[2] And ‘It is estimated that the entire Gypsy and Traveller population could be legally accommodated if as little as one square mile of land were allocated for sites in England’.[3]

We have to keep this particular fact at the forefront of our minds when analysing the sheer scale of anti-Gypsyism in British political culture.

Playing the Gypsy ‘race card’

Before the election there were ominous signs that the Conservatives were at least willing to play one race card. (David Cameron was involved in writing and planning Michael Howard’s openly racist campaign in 2005 for a ‘Gypsy law’ of criminal trespass.) Buried in a Conservative planning ‘green paper’ in February were proposals not only on Criminal Trespass but a determination to roll back all the guidance and directives Labour had issued to pressure local government to provide sites. Before the election only a few academic and political campaigners, Gypsy and Traveller organisations and news web sites (like Travellers’ Times (http://www.travellerstimes.org.uk/) and Friends, Families & Travellers (FFT) (http://www.gypsy-traveller.org/)) publicised the threats of Tory policy. Lord Avebury the Lib Dem peer who since his days as Eric Lubbock has been a life time campaigner for Gypsies and Travellers, was one of them. (Read an IRR News story: ‘Notes on the new Conservative Traveller policy’ (http://www.irr.org.uk/2010/february/ha000032.html))

Eric Pickles and ‘Our Gypsy War’

The red-top and local press continued up to the election and beyond to provide the ‘racist wallpaper’ to debates. They were feeding on and fuelling perhaps the most virulent aspect of the common sense racism around in political debates – anti-Gypsyism.

In the midst of debates on the policies of the coalition the Sunday Express on 23 May decided to remind the Tories in a banner front page story of one policy priority to hold fast to – their ‘Gypsy Camp Crackdown’.[4] The Express group has along history of promoting anti-Gypsyism.[5] The links between the new communities secretary Eric Pickles and the anti-Gypsy campaigning of the Express group go back to 2008 when he was the shadow minister. In an article on Labour’s sites policy headed ‘7,500 sites for Gypsies on the way’, Pickles had said: ‘Communities across the country are going to face the bombshell of having a traveller camp dumped on their back yard, whether they like it or not. Councils are powerless to resist these regional targets and are being bullied into building on the green belt or using compulsory purchase powers to provide the land for travellers. It’s not fair that hard-working families have to save up to get on the housing ladder while Travellers get special treatment at taxpayers’ expense.'[6]

Throughout 2009 and into the election period the interaction of media and political discourses tended to reinforce the ‘common sense racism’ stereotypes of Gypsies and Travellers. ‘Cost’ and ‘mess’ and the effects of sites on house values dominate debate. The threat ‘they’ posed to a beautiful conservative rural England was perhaps summed up in February 2009 with the ‘threat to build a travellers site of 20 caravans half a mile from Camilla Duchess of Cornwall’s countryside home … at Reybridge, near Lacock, North Wiltshire’ on a former pony paddock. Objections were based on the site being near Lacock ‘an untouched 13th century village…a unique mediaeval village … a sensitive area’. Period dramas were filmed there – Pride and Prejudice, Cranford and Harry Potter – presumably without the ‘period’ Gypsies of the past.[7]

In the lead up to the election Express and Mail articles built on and fuelled the familiar narratives. ‘Gypsy camps’ were threatening to despoil ‘beauty spots’ and the heartlands of Tory voters in rural idylls like those in William Hague’s seat in Ripon in North Yorkshire: ‘The Gypsy capital of Britain will be a county famous for its quaint villages and rolling hills on the orders of Government planners. They have told Yorkshire to provide 255 new sites for Gypsies by the end of the year’.[8]

Not a word about the thousands of ‘our’ caravans already sited on the Yorkshire coast – one of the largest concentrations of holiday and residential caravans in Europe.

Meanwhile ‘in the heart of Jane Austen country’, ‘living in a small village surrounded by rolling countryside, the residents of Ropley in Hampshire know how valuable their peace and quiet is’. Villagers raised £225,000 to buy back land from a Traveller threatening to seek planning permission for a site.[9]

The familiar conflict language was used and abused. ‘Gypsy Invaders'[10] were producing a ‘battleground'[11] for what ‘we’ all see as ‘Our Gypsy War’.[12] There was also the ‘Battle of Hemley Hill’ in ‘an area of outstanding natural beauty’.[13]

Eric Pickles certainly identified with the ‘War’. Two days after the election in a major piece in the Daily Express Adrian Lee reported from the front line of ‘a community under siege’, Meriden in Warwickshire, ‘where 84-year-old Nancy Fulford is part of a campaign which has blockaded roads and has established ‘vigil’ camps to stop a Traveller site of seventeen caravans, one of which is now called ‘Camp Nancy’. ‘Her entire way of life is threatened by an unauthorised gypsy site within a few yards of her front door. A motley assortment of caravans, vehicles and diggers blights the outlook. The travellers overwhelmed the village without warning, using underhand tactics to try to avoid eviction’.

Lee claims that on the (May) ‘Bank holiday Friday a planning application was lodged with Solihull Council, a few minutes before the offices were scheduled to close. It’s a common tactic used elsewhere, allowing Gypsies an extra day to get settled and start building work before enforcement teams return to work’.[14]

Eric Pickles obviously wants to be seen to be joining ‘Our Gypsy War’ in rural and suburban England. Our new communities secretary used his august office to actually issue an official government warning to local authorities on 28 May on the eve of another Bank Holiday, presumably clearing the ground for a legislative offensive against Gypsies and Travellers.

‘Communities and Local Government Secretary of State Eric Pickles is taking pre-emptive action to prevent unauthorised development over the coming bank holiday weekend. Mr. Pickles is writing to all Local Authority Chief Planners to warn them to be alert and ready for action if any significant planning applications get submitted before the bank holiday….Mr. Pickles is encouraging Councils to have planning officers on call over the weekend’ to prevent ‘ a small minority of people’, ‘illegally developing their land’ over the holiday.[15]

Politicians and the fuelling of anti-Gypsyism

Politicians of all parties routinely in and out of Parliament have fuelled the climate of anti-Gypsyism. According to Royce Turner: ‘Persistent themes of criticism and vilification applied in blanket fashion condemning just about all Gypsies and Travellers as dishonest, criminal and dirty. Gypsies are rarely discussed … but when they are they are almost always portrayed in a negative light. Labour, Conservative and Ulster Unionist have all categorised Gypsies and Travellers in this way.'[16]

Gypsies and Travellers are routinely described as ‘illegally’ occupying land, contrasting them with the majority of law abiding citizens. Politicians and the media continue to portray Gypsies and Travellers not as the most deprived of all minority groups but actually being privileged, getting an advantage over middle-income Britain, the taxpayers.

The Daily Express reported a scheme by Mendip council to provide low interest loans for developing Gypsy and Traveller sites which was ‘dismissed as an insult to struggling buyers in other communities.’ The Taxpayers Alliance weighed in with: ‘These loans are an insult to many hard-working families who are struggling to get together the money to put down a deposit on a property. Singling out this one community for loans is grossly unfair, particularly if some do not pay their share in council tax and violate planning regulations.'[17]

The Labour government also joined in the pre-election demonising of Gypsies and Travellers by issuing new punitive Guidance on managing anti-social behaviour related to Gypsies and Travellers which ignored any reference to inequalities and shortage of sites.[18] The guidance for local authorities, the police and other agencies, set out the strong powers that are available to them in dealing with anti social behaviour associated with Gypsies and Travellers.

Resistance, lobbying and building alliances

Only very rarely does one see an interview with a Gypsy and Traveller organisation in the media – but this has been changing. Gypsies and Travellers have had organisations for many years – the Gypsy Council (http://www.grtleeds.co.uk/information/GypsyCouncil.html) was founded in 1966. In more recent years Irish Travellers established a national welfare organisation, the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (http://www.irishtraveller.org.uk/), which was set up in 1999.

The self-organised campaigning and resistance of Gypsies and Travellers rarely appears in the media or in academic analysis. In fact the disruptive and controversial tactic of occupying council land, playing fields and the like should be seen both as desperation and political resistance, trying to force particular councils to actually change attitudes to sites. (Colm Power in one of the few studies of Irish Travellers in England notes the central importance of the mobile phone in Gypsy and Traveller life, particularly to organise within a few hours large occupations of land.)[19]

Organised resistance to evictions has been a central part of Gypsy and Traveller everyday life for many years. For the past few years the Conservative council in Basildon, Essex has been planning one of the largest evictions in Europe at the Dale Farm site, recruiting bailiffs and reputedly being willing to spend ‘three million euro’. It has been met by a determined campaign by local Gypsies and Travellers assisted by veteran campaigner Gratton Paxton, which has launched legal challenges involving both the Council of Europe and United Nations. (Read an IRR News story: ‘Lords refuse to hear Travellers’ appeal, whilst UN pledges support’ (http://www.irr.org.uk/2009/may/bw000038.html))

Gypsies and Travellers have also had to organise and fight to retain the summer round of horse fairs – the only way in which families, communities and organisations can ‘network’. The major fairs at Appleby in Cumbria and Stow have survived, but many other local fairs have been harassed and disappeared.

Gypsy and Traveller organisations have also been effective when they have forged alliances with Gorjas (non Gypsies), particularly lawyers and activist academics. In 1995 a Traveller Law Research Unit was set up at Cardiff University and with a Traveller Law Reform Bill published in 2002 the Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition was founded. Thomas Acton, professor of Romany Studies at the University of Greenwich, also promoted a string of books from the University of Hertfordshire Press including the influential Here to Stay: the Gypsies and Travellers of Britain.[20]

These alliances and campaigns have also produced action in parliament with evidence to select committees and investigations and the establishing of the All Party Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Group with the assistance of Lord Avebury. Three of the contenders for the Labour leadership John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and, perhaps interestingly, Ed Balls were, in the last parliament, members of this Group. The Group also included prominent Conservatives Caroline Spelman, the new environment secretary and Peter Bottomley, along with some Lib Dem MPs and Lord Avebury. Their efforts seemed to have produced a small amendment to housing law which would have given Gypsies and Travellers a few more rights to security on existing sites – apparently lost in the ‘wash up’ period before the election.

Pressure on the Labour government produced some results for Gypsy and Traveller campaigners and organisations. Building on the existing network of Travellers Education projects at a local level, the government introduced in June 2008 Gypsy and Traveller History Month with an emphasis on positive images of Gypsies and Travellers. The Lottery Fund helped establish Travellers’ Times as a voice for Gypsies and Travellers. Other groups managed to access funds too. These funding gains were augmented by some token involvement in consultative and advisory bodies, including briefly having a Romany Gypsy Commissioner on the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE). The CRE (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission – EHRC) started actually recognising the existence of Gypsies and Travellers with its Common Groundreport of 2006 and monitoring policy progress in its 2009 report Gypsies and Travellers: Simple Solutions.[21]

Campaigning against the Coalition

The early cuts targeting Gypsy and Travellers have already been met with protests from Gypsy and Traveller organisations and their allies. Facebook sites are organising demonstrations and protests – no doubt being developed at Appleby Fair from 3-7 June A network of academics, researchers and campaigners have signed protest letters. (Read an IRR News story: ‘Defend the remaining travelling Gypsies and Travellers, and Showmen’ (http://www.irr.org.uk/2010/june/ha000019.html).) The campaigning this time needs to be effective, as the web petitions claim, that there is a real threat of ‘ethnic cleansing’ of travelling Gypsies and Travellers and the disappearance of the few who remain.

—-
FOOTNOTE

References: [1] Connors v UK, download the judgment Count of Gypsy and Traveller Caravans – July 2009 (http://www.grtleeds.co.uk/information/downloads/Strasbourg_Judgement.doc), Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). [3] Gypsies and Travellers: simple solutions for living together, Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), March 2009. [4] Eugene Henderson, ‘Gypsy Camp Crackdown’ (http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/176672/Gypsy-camp-crackdownGypsy-camp-crackdownGypsy-camp-crackdown), Sunday Express, (23 May 2010). [5] Joanna Richardson, The Gypsy Debate: Can discourse Control?, Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2006. [6] Martyn Brown, ‘7,500 sites for Gypsies on the way’ (http://www.dailyexpress.co.uk/posts/view/72245), Daily Express, (21 November 2008). [7] Jon Land, ‘Anger over travellers’ site near Camilla’s countryside home’ (http://www.24dash.com/news/Housing/2009-02-12-Anger-over-plans-for-travellers-site-near-Camillas-countryside-home), 24dash.com, (12 February 2009). [8] Charlton, ‘Beauty spots for Gypsy capital’, Sunday Express, (4 April 2010).

[9] Eugene Henderson, ‘Gypsy Camp Crackdown’ (http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/176672/Gypsy-camp-crackdownGypsy-camp-crackdownGypsy-camp-crackdown), Sunday Express, (23 May 2010); Michael Pickard, ‘Villagers raise £225K to buy off Gypsy invaders’ (http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/175533/Villagers-raise-225k-to-buy-off-gypsy-invadersVillagers-raise-225k-to-buy-off-gypsy-invadersVillagers-raise-225k-to-buy-off-gypsy-invadersVillagers-raise-225k-to-buy-off-gypsy-invaders), Daily Express, (17 May 2010); Luke, Salkeld, ‘After the human blockade against Gypsies, a village whose £225,000 whip round has kept out travellers’ (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1278796/How-residents-sleepy-village-pooled-resources-buy-gipsy-family.html), Daily Mail , (12 May 2010). [10] Michael Pickard, ‘Villagers raise £225K to buy off Gypsy invaders’ (http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/175533/Villagers-raise-225k-to-buy-off-gypsy-invadersVillagers-raise-225k-to-buy-off-gypsy-invadersVillagers-raise-225k-to-buy-off-gypsy-invadersVillagers-raise-225k-to-buy-off-gypsy-invaders), Daily Express, (17 May 2010). [11] Eugene Henderson, ‘Gypsy Camp Crackdown’ (http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/176672/Gypsy-camp-crackdownGypsy-camp-crackdownGypsy-camp-crackdown), Sunday Express, (23 May 2010). [12] Adrian Lee, ”Our Gypsy War” (http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/173920), Daily Express, (8 May 2010). [13] Eugene Henderson, ‘Scandal of unwanted Gypsy sites’ (http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/156691/Scandal-of-unwanted-gypsy-sites-Scandal-of-unwanted-gypsy-sites-Scandal-of-unwanted-gypsy-sites-Scandal-of-unwanted-gypsy-sites-Scandal-of-unwanted-gypsy-sites-Scandal-of-unwanted-gypsy-sites-Scandal-of-unwanted-gypsy-sites-Scandal-of-unwanted-gypsy-sites-Scandal-of-unwanted-gypsy-sites-Scandal-of-unwanted-gypsy-sites-), Sunday Express, (7 February 2010). [14] Adrian Lee, ‘Our Gypsy War’ (http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/173920), Daily Express, (8 May 2010). [15] ‘Eric Pickles calls on councils to crackdown on unauthorised bank holiday building’ (http://www.communities.gov.uk/newsstories/planningandbuilding/1602649), Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), 28 May 2010. [16] Royce Turner, ‘Gypsies and British Parliamentary language: an analysis’, Romani Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2002, pp 1-34. [17] Cyril Dixon, ‘Gypsies who get interest free loans courtesy of you’ (http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/167869/Gypsies-who-get-interest-free-loans-courtesy-of-you), Daily Express, (8 April 2010). [18] Guidance on Managing Anti-social Behaviour related to Gypsies and Travellers (http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/anti-socialbehaviourguide), Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), March 2010. [19] Colm Power, Room to Roam: England’s Irish Travellers, 2004. p30. Download here (http://www.irishtraveller.org.uk/images/roomtoroam.pdf) (pdf file, 1.7mb). [20] Colin Clark and Margaret Greenfields, Here to Stay: the Gypsies and Travellers of Britain, University of Hertfordshire Press, 2006. [21] Common Ground, Commission for Racial Equality, 2006; Gypsies and Travellers: simple solutions for living together (http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/hafan/prydain-decach/cysylltiadau-da/gypsies-and-travellers-simple-solutions-for-living-together/index.html), Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2009.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

IRR is not responsible for the content of external websites.
Inclusion of a link does not constitute an endorsement. Please contact us (/contact/index.html) if you come across a broken link.

> RELATED LINKS

Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (http://www.irishtraveller.org.uk/)

The Traveller Law Reform Project (http://www.travellerslaw.org.uk/)

Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (http://www.irishtraveller.org.uk/)

The Gypsy Council (http://www.grtleeds.co.uk/information/GypsyCouncil.html)

Travellers’ Times (http://www.travellerstimes.org.uk/)

Friends, Families & Travellers (FFT) (http://www.gypsy-traveller.org/)

IRR is not responsible for the content of external websites.
Inclusion of a link does not constitute an endorsement. Please contact us if you come across a broken link.

———-

© Institute of Race Relations 2010

To read this article with full formatting or to add a comment to this article, go to the web page: http://www.irr.org.uk/2010/june/ha000020.html

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No Borders Round Up: Yarls Wood, Calais, Bristol, Cardiff, Dale Farm

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on Monday, 8 February, 2010 by bristolnoborders

Hunger Strike: Yarls Wood Immigration Prison, Bedfordshire

Yarls Wood On Fire during previous resistance in 2007

Since the 5th of February 2010, we the residents at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre are on hunger strike which involves over 84 + women, who are protesting against the period of time spent in detention and the treatment that they receive while being detained.The strike was sparked to protest and demand that the frustration and humiliation of all foreign nationals ends now.

A full statement of demands by the Women can be found here

Calais – Kronstadt Hanger Eviction

Arrested for helping migrants

Brighton No Borders Writes: Since the news of the impending opening of the Kronstadt Hanger, a self-organised resource centre for activists and migrants alike, the police had closely monitored the building and effective mounted a blockade of it since last Friday. On Saturday, people managed to circumvent the 3 police lines blocking access to the front door (they did not force their way in as Besson has claimed). Their numbers were swollen with migrants who were once again shelter-less following the closure after 2 days of the cold weather shelter at the BCMO…full report here A number of Bristol No Borders activists were present.

A statement from Sos Sans Papier can also be found (in french only)here: here.

Bristol Immigration Raid:

The UK Border Agency raided the Glassboat in Welsh Back during a lunch service and closed it off as officers arrested a Jamaican kitchen porter and Peruvian sous chef. Mr Lee, the owner said the Jamaican woman had been working at Glassboat since 2003 and that in 2008 the restaurant wrote to the Home Office to support an application to extend her visa.

He added: “The way they operated was a little shocking and heavy- handed. They didn’t ask to see the documents we had – and the office where I have copies of their documents is 100 yards away. They weren’t interested at all. They were like Stormtroopers as they made their way into the restaurant at the beginning of service at a time we had customers waiting to be seated.The “full” story and the normal racist comments can be found on the This is Bristol website: here

Meanwhile, Alberto Durango, persecuted by his employers and UKBA for his union activism has been sacked (again) by the Lancaster Cleaning Company in London. Background can be found here

Demo last year for AlbertoMore background and details of solidarity demo here.

Cardiff – Anti Mass Deportation Demo

Last Wednesday (3rd Feb) Bristol No Borders joined their Comrades from South Wales in a picket outside the Regional UKBA headquarters in Cardiff to protest against a mass deporrtation to unsafe Nigeria. A full report can be found here.

Dale Farm Travellers

Hanningfield - Wanker

On a lighter Note, Traveller-hating posh-knob-scum-bag Lord Hanningfield is one of four politicians who face prosecution for the parlimenatry expenses scandal. Hanningfield is presently charged with making thousands of pounds worth of false claims for overnight accommodation while allegedly being chauffer-driven home from parliament.

It was he who wanted to tear down Dale Farms’s community centre and Chapel and had been the Queen’s Deputy Lieutenant of the county when in 2004 bailiffs and riot police stormed the Meadowlands caravan park,burning homes and evicting Travellers onto the road in freezing winter weather.

A interesting ariticle by Gratton Puxton about Dale Farm and “Irish” Travellers can be found here. An impending eviction attempt still looms for Dale Farms residents.

DALE FARM – WHISTLEBLOWER SPARKS BAILIFF COMPANY PROBE

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on Saturday, 28 November, 2009 by bristolnoborders

WHISTLEBLOWER SPARKS BAILIFF COMPANY PROBE

28/11/2009 – Allegations against a bailiff company favoured to win a huge contract for the eviction operation at Dale Farm have sparked an investigation by Basildon’s internal audit officers.

The council’s cabinet is to meet on 10 December to select one of two bailiff outfits bidding for the job of evicting some hundred families from Dale Farm and nearby
Hovefields.

Constant & Co., based in Bedford, has previously carried out such work for the district council. It has been shortled listed from eight firms which originally showed interest in the contract, believed to be worth up to two million pounds.

However, should audit officers decide there is substance to any of the more serious allegations against Constant, the matter might be referred to the council’s overview and scrutiny commission.

It is also possible, under a clause in Basildon council’s constitution, that a member of the public will request any disputed decision be called in by the commission before an eviction at either location is mounted.

Internal audit officer Jill Norton, who received the initial complaints against Constant through the lately created whistleblower service, says the issues raised are being taken very seriously.

She has further acknowledged receipt of a 26-page dossier cataloguing many alleged wrongdoings by Constant bailiffs while employed by Basildon and other local authorities.

Copies of the dossier have also been sent by Dale Farm Housing Association to Conservative, Labour and Liberal members of the cabinet.

It draws attention to a warning from Brentwood, Billericay and Wickford Primary Care Trust that a forced eviction at Dale Farm would inevitably result in trauma and injury to women and children.

Constant bailiffs ignored health and safety procedures when demolishing homes at Hovefields Drive, Wickford, in 2006, it is alleged. At the same time the firm failed to carry out a risk assessment before the operation, according to to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

“A major worry is that these bailiffs will bring heavy machinery in here,” commented a Dale Farm mother. “It’s not legal to start bulldozing with children around and we won’t allow it.”

To draw attention to their fears, residents from Dale Farm are holding a protest rally outside the Basildon Centre to coincide with the cabinet meeting.

An exhibition, depicting the ill-treatment of Roma and Travellers over the past seventy years, was prepared to mark Human Rights Day, 10 December. Elements of it will still be displayed in St Martin’s square.

However, request to mount the full exhibition in the Basildon Centre was turned down by the council.

“We were not allowed to put a question to the council’s full meeting last week,” said the same mother. “They said our request was received an hour late. But we’ll
make our voice heard at this protest and hope other people will join us.”

____________ _________

Human Rights Day
DALE FARM MOTHERS’
EVICTION PROTEST
10 December, 7.30pm
Basildon Centre,
St Martin’s Square
Basildon SS14 1DL
____________ ____

Lords refuse to hear Dale Farm appeal

Posted in Dale Farm with tags , , on Sunday, 17 May, 2009 by bristolnoborders

Only hours after a UN agency launched an urgent plea for a freeze on plans to bulldoze Britain’s biggest traveller community, Dale Farm residents learnt that the House of Lords has refused to hear their appeal. Lawyers acting for Dale Farm say the case may now go to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. But with a likely two year wait before the court could rule on the matter, it will be necessary to seek a prolonged protection from eviction.

Permission was refused on the 14th May “because the petition does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by this House at this time, bearing in mind that the cause has already been the subject of judicial decision and reviewed on appeal.” Just before the decision by the Lords, Brazilian lawyer Leticicia Osorio, who has visted Dale Farm as part of a delegation from UN Habitat, presented the peliminary findings of the mission at meetings in the Houes of Lords organised by Lord Avebury.  UK local councils should not only stop evicting Gypsies and Travellers but also refrain from criminalizing those living on their own land without planning authorization she stated.

The preliminary report suggests that the UK through its failure to curb the racially-motivated harassment of its Gypsy population is in contravention of human rights legislation. It states there is undeniable evidence of de facto exclusion from accommodation, education and welfare provision, leaving thousands of families homeless
and without medical care. After an expected endorsement by UN Habitat next month, the recommendations will be officially presented to Downing Street.

The UN mission organizer Joseph Jones confirmed that members of the UN Mission would be present as observers should an attempt be made by bailiffs to force their way up the private Oak Lane approach to Dale Farm for the purpose of destroying homes there. Several hundred supporters have already pledged to join Dale Farm residents in forming a human shield to stop bulldozers reaching their recently-built social centre and chapel, as well as the l32 chalets, mobile-homes and caravans that comprise the estate.

Meanwhile, Basildon District Council has yet to consider the homeless applications submitted by over 90 Dale Farm households. They include a joint homeless application seeking to be re-accommodated together as a community.

Bristol No Borders are one of the groups that has pledged to support Dale Farm families in helping to resist the eviction. For more information on how you can get involved. please email us at bristolnoborders(at) riseup.net

Dale Farm: Persecuted, evicted, fighting back!

Posted in Dale Farm with tags , , , on Sunday, 8 March, 2009 by bristolnoborders

savedalefarmbanner
We want to live in harmony, but we’ ll defend our homes and our human rights if necessary.”
– Richard Sheridan, Dale Farm spokesperson

Over 10 million gypsies, travellers and Roma live in Europe. In every country they have faced centuries of persecution for wishing to maintain their own culture. Over a quarter of a million were murdered in Nazi concentration camps. This persecution continues to the present day. Butchered in Romanian villages, ethnically-cleansed from Kosovo and more recently murdered in Hungary and fire-bombed by Italian thugs, Europe’s 12 million Roma are compelled to make common cause. And on the frontline of this growing conflict stands the bastion of Dale Farm.

The ongoing attempts by Basildon council to evict over 100 traveller families from the Dale Farm site in Crays Hill in Essex has become Britains starkest example of persecution of travellers in the UK. They have followed every suggestion, guidance and legal process that that the state have provided in order to ensure safe and secure homes for themselves and their families. Despite this they continue to face racism and harassment from the both the local council, local residents and the media – all of whom have played a part in stoking the same prejudice and hatred that has allowed the persecution of travelling communities to remain unchallenged for decades. This time the residents of Dale Farm are fighting back. In a way they have no choice – with nowhere else to go an eviction will push families back into a life of insecurity and marginalisation.

It is still unclear when the planned eviction, for which Basildon have earmarked £3million, will finally take place. Dale Farm residents are hoping to appeal to the House of Lords to overturn the Appeal Court finding, and in the meantime Basildon have to deal with over one hundred homelessness applications – one of the few obligations put on them by the Court of Appeal. They have promised that residents will be given 28 days notice of eviction – but whether this can be relied on is unclear. Recent council meetings on the issue have been held behind closed doors and Basildon council have refused to release their plans for the eviction.

Should their final appeal to the House Of Lords fail Dale Farm residents face an army of bailiffs and bulldozers. But this isn’t their last chance. Over the last 4 years the Dale Farm Residents Association have been reaching out to groups outside their own community, using the example of their struggle to highlight the wider problem of traveller repression. The call has been made for all those who refuse to accept the ignorance, intolerance and misinformation peddled by the media and the press to stand with them in solidarity. With support from local communities, churches and activists Dale Farm residents are preparing to resist the biggest traveller eviction in British history. Should they win this could represent a landmark victory – one that calls time on the isolation and repression of this until now marginalised community.

Previous traveller evictions have involved armies of bailiffs, bulldozers and wreckers. Yet Dale Farm have decided enough is enough and are calling for support in resisting. Bristol No Borders, along with many other groups, has agreed to stand with Dale Farm should the eviction finally take place. If you would like to join us please email bristolnoborders@listsriseup.net to get updates and transport down to Dale Farm.

Dale Farm Prepares For Eviction Attempt

Posted in Dale Farm with tags , , on Saturday, 14 February, 2009 by bristolnoborders
Building Defences

Building Defences. Picture: © Jess Hurd/reportdigital.co.uk

Scaffolding goes up at Dale Farm to defend the entrances of the largest traveler site in England from eviction by Basildon Council. The Travellers will apparently get 28 days notice, so that will hopefully gives all those who want to support the Travellers plenty of time to organise.