Stop Basildon evicting Roma and Travellers!

August 21, 2010 at 6:52 pm (Anti-Racism, Civil liberties, Human rights, Jim D, travellers)

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URGENT: Stop the evictions from Dale Farm!

Dear Friends,

More than 20 families living in chalets, mobile-homes and caravans at Hovefields Drive, nearby the largest Romani Gypsy and Irish Traveller community in the United Kingdom, Dale Farm, Essex County, are facing imminent forced eviction. The families received a 28-day notice issued by Basildon District Council to vacate their pitches and leave by 31 August or otherwise face eviction by the bailiff Company Constant and Co. Six families were evicted from Hovefields Drive community on 29 June, when the bailiff company, acting as agents of the Basildon Council, arrived at the site in the early hours of the day accompanied by Essex police officers and gave occupants one hour to pack up and leave. Heavy digger machines dig up the six plots where there was no-one living at the time as the families were travelling.

No previous notice of this work had been given and a utility unit used as a lavatory was demolished. Children were able to move freely about the sites shortly before the utility was demolished by a heavy digger. Health and safety regulations were totally ignored during the eviction operation and the police did nothing to guarantee compliance with human rights law although a meeting between senior police officers, the Dale Farm Housing Association and the Essex Human Rights Clinic had taken days before the eviction. Those families who were travelling cannot return to their plots because Basildon District Council obtained a court injunction that prevent them to do so. No alternative accommodation was offered, no compensation for the destruction of utilities was paid, and these families are now homeless.

In the case of Dale Farm, approximately 1,000 people have been residing on the estate for more than seven years, including many children. The community has been resisting forced evictions attempts by Basildon District Council since May 2005 when it voted to clear a large part of the settlement. Although all residents hold land ownership titles, sections of the site had no planning permission and Basildon Council has subsequently refused all attempts to regularise the situation, preferring the enforcement option.

In March 2010 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issued a letter urging the UK Government and its institutions to consider suspending any planned eviction until an adequate solution is achieved, with the meaningful participation of the community to guarantee protection of their housing rights, including the provision of adequate alternative accommodation (www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/UK_12.03.2010.pdf).

Basildon Council has offered nothing but brick and mortar houses or apartments, which are unsuitable for Gypsies and Travellers. Furthermore, the Council has refused to engage in conversations with the community.

The new UK Coalition Government has cancelled the central funding of much-needed new caravan parks for nomadic Gypsies and Travellers and removed the requirement to designate land for their accommodation. Many thousands of Gypsy families are thus forced to live illegally on land they have purchased but where they have been denied through strict planning laws to set up permanent homes. Thus another generation of Gypsies and Travellers are in danger of losing the chance of a regular education, while the old and the sick are deprived of the care and medical attention.

The wishes of the residents are to remain where it is and not to be split up. There is a strong communal ethic, with the elderly being cared for by the younger generation and small children protected. Gypsies and Travellers feel that having lost the possibility to follow the old nomadic life-style, it is essential to the preservation of their culture and ethnicity to keep Dale Farm and Hovefields communities intact. In line with the Housing Act 1996, it is incumbent on the BDC to consider the claim of the occupants to not be evicted as the families threatened with forced removal have no place to go.

The community is therefore seeking your support to urge the Basildon Council to:

● Put on hold the imminent forced eviction of Hovefields community and the planned eviction of Dale Farm, and engage in meaningful consultation discussions with the residents and their representatives for the purpose of seeking to achieve an amicable solution;

● Consider both the possibility of a) issuing planning permission to allow their permanent residence on their present properties; or b) utilising the € 4 million set aside for the eviction to provide an alternative area to which the residents can relocate;

● Respect and protect the housing, property and family rights of the Gypsy and Traveller communities, in particular the rights of the children.

Suggested action

Please send an appeal letter by e-mail or fax to the addresses listed below requesting the Basildon Council to stop the eviction. Sample letters and further background here.

Basildon District Council

Mr. Bala Mahendran, Chief Executive

Basildon Centre

St. Martins Sq, Basildon, SS14 1DL, UK

Tel:+44 1268 533333

bala.mahendran@basildon.gov.uk

 

CC:

Department for Communities and Local Government

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles

Zone 7/J9

Eland House

Bressenden Place

London SW1E 5DU

gypsies@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Contactus@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Commission for Equalities and Human Rights

Mr. Sean Risdale

Policy Advisor,

3 More London, Riverside Tooley Street

London, SE1 2RG

Tel: +44.20 3117 0235

Sean.Risdale@equalityhumanrights.com

BCC:

Essex Human Rights Clinic

Email: losori@essex.ac.uk

Dale Farm Housing Association

dale.farm@btinternet.com

6 Comments

  1. Laban said,

    “No previous notice of this work had been given”

    Sounds like the council are learning from the travellers. It’s an ancient tradition to move in with the diggers and six-wheelers at first light on the Saturday of a Bank Holiday weekend, having shoved the planning application through the (closed) council office door at ten the previous night.

    Dale Farm, eh ?

    “We have been totally let down by this government. I don’t know which cloud this judge has been sitting on for the past 6 years but he should be knocked off his perch and told to live in the real world. We have suffered so much down here I just want to sit down and cry buckets but no I have to pick myself up and fight again. Our human rights are non existent, why will no-one listen to us, why is this allowed to happen to us. We have no faith in our judicial system whatsoever. Please, please can someone help us because we are at a loss as to what to do. Most of the comments are realistic and supportive and I thank you for these.”

    That’s not the travellers, of course. That’s one of their neighbours.

    Ever wondered, by the way, what would happen if someone from the straight world pulled their caravan up on a traveller site ?

    “By now, the other boys had found poles and sticks to beat us with. They were surrounding us, and nonchalant young men were standing by watching. The pacing steed had been replaced by a manic squad bike that was running circles around me and Jessamy. While I was fending off Jonathan, Jessamy was protecting the awning that the boys were pulling down. In despair she turned to a man who had stuck his head out of a neighbouring caravan.

    “What can I do to stop these children tormenting us?” she asked

    “Pack up and go”, he said.”

    • skramamme said,

      What an objective answer.
      Perhaps you could come and spend some time in Alice Springs or in the Northern Territory, I’m sure you’d fit right in with the white fella’s there as they moan about the damn “abbos” and their camps. Goddamn black fella’s making white folk uncomfortable with their glaring social problems, right?
      Demonising any group, especially one that is inherently disenfranchised, is a sure way to keep the fires of social inequity burning bright.

  2. charliethechulo said,

    A much better, and more interesting, response to this post, here:
    http://community.livejournal.com/ontd_feminism/307405.html

  3. margaret Hamilton said,

    When the goverment or big business want to use green belt land we have no say.. Until proper places are set uo for travellers I believe they should be left there

  4. kelly said,

    there is no judicial system when it come to Travellers, if thay was foreign thay would be left a lone and given tax payers money to buy a car, its a joke. Travellers pay there way like ever one elce, the Council wount give them any where to stay but say the kids should be in school, i bet the council soon heve there hand out of there council tax ever year,

    let them stay or build more site for them to stay!!

  5. George Clinton formally known as Monsieur Jelly est formidable said,

    “if thay was foreign thay would be left a lone and given tax payers money to buy a car…”

    V confused. at a minimum (to be charitable).

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