Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Amnesty Calls For Halt To Traveller Eviction

More than 1000 people are set to be evicted by the council

By Ben Aulakh

Human rights organisation Amnesty International is calling for the planned eviction of more than 86 Irish traveller families in Essex to be halted.

Basildon Council has moved to try and remove the travellers from the largest settlement of Roma, Gypsy and Irish traveller families in the UK, which is currently home to more than a thousand people.

If the eviction goes ahead as scheduled by August 31, more than 400 people could be forced from their homes on the site at Dale Farm, Crays Hill, Billericay.

Despite the land at the site being owned by the families living there, the travellers have been denied repeated requests to build residential properties because of local zoning restrictions.

Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Director, Europe and Central Asia Programme at Amnesty said, “The eviction notice applies to plots on Dale Farm that the local authority, Basildon Council, says are ‘unauthorised developments.’

“Up to 400 people could be left homeless as a result of the forced eviction which would require them to vacate their plots without an authorised site to which they can take their caravans.”

“The authorities must ensure that their actions do not break international law. We suggest that they instead talk to the residents of Dale Farm and reach a negotiated solution.”

The council say they will cut off water and electricity supplies as soon as the evicted families have left the site.

However Amnesty say that the move would leave the families with nowhere to go, more than a hundred children without access to schooling, and would deny a number of current residents with serious illnesses access to continuous medical treatment.

While the council have offered ‘bricks and mortar’ housing to those facing forcible removal, many have said they do not want this as it doesn’t meet their cultural needs; in many cases residents fear they will be left homeless.

Many of the Irish families at Dale Farm have also expressed wider concerns about discrimination against their community, and fear they would be unable to find a home that they consider adequate without a negotiated settlement.

Jezerca Tigani added, “A negotiated settlement is a must and the local authorities should work with those living at Dale Farm towards achieving it.

“This means genuine consultation, in a manner that seeks meaningful input from Travellers because if an eviction is unavoidable, the authorities should ensure adequate alternative housing which allows the Irish Travellers to express their cultural identity.”

Photograph from www.guardian.co.uk

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