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Alert - New wave of evictions threatens Gypsies

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  • Tony Gosling
    New wave of evictions threatens Gypsies Families forced off their land and into illegal plots as Eric Pickles drafts tougher trespass powers for police The
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 1, 2010
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      New wave of evictions threatens Gypsies
      Families forced off their land and into illegal
      plots as Eric Pickles drafts tougher trespass powers for police

      The Observer, Sunday 1 August 2010

      Granddaughters of Irish Traveller Mary Ann
      McCarthy – two of the 50 children facing
      eviction, with their families, from Dale Farm,
      near Basildon. Photograph: Susan Craig-Greene

      Human rights campaigners have condemned a wave of
      evictions and court actions against Gypsies and
      Irish Travellers which they say are threatening
      to extinguish a whole way of life.

      Dozens of families face the prospect of being
      pushed off plots of land they own and forced to
      move back into illegal "side-of-the road" and
      wasteland camping. Children will be unable to go
      to school and the elderly and infirm unable to
      access health services, say the campaigners.

      Eric Pickles, the communities and local
      government minister, is drafting new laws to
      allow police more powers to evict and arrest
      people for trespass on public land. Planning laws
      are also being changed to stop applications for
      retrospective permission to put caravans on private land.

      Pickles has already announced the reversal of
      previous efforts to provide "pitches" within all
      local authorities, abolishing the regional
      planning bodies which were to oversee provision
      of registered sites for travellers and ease the
      tensions caused by Gypsies being forced to camp illegally.

      The grants that had been made available to
      councils to provide sites have also been slashed,
      although an estimated £18m a year is being spent on evictions.

      "Gypsies are being squeezed on all sides in this
      wave of intolerance and racism which is unlike
      anything I've ever seen before," said Gratton
      Puxon, 69, a founder member of the Gypsy Council.

      There are around 18,000 Gypsy and Traveller
      caravans in England, with 80% of them on
      authorised sites, land they own or rent. The
      numbers on illegal sites is so small, according
      to the government's own reports, that they could
      all be accommodated on one square mile.

      The clampdown comes against a background of
      rising attacks against Roma people in Europe
      which has led to a demand for the EU to tackle
      what some are calling an attempted "ethnic
      cleansing" of travelling people. France has
      intensified its crackdown on Gypsies, announcing
      that 300 sites would be closed down in the next
      three months and any Gypsies found breaking the
      law would be deported. In 2008 the Italian
      government declared its Roma population was a
      national security risk, while in 2009 more than
      100 Romanian Gypsies were attacked with bricks
      and bottles in Ireland and driven from their homes.

      In Essex, where the statutory requirement for the
      provision of sites to accommodate 104 travelling
      people has now gone with the abolition of the
      regional planning assemblies, Basildon council
      issued an eviction notice last week on eight
      families living on their own land at one site. It
      is also embroiled in a court battle to evict a
      further 70 families from a site at Dale Farm, on
      the outskirts of the town. At the former
      scrapyard, bought by Irish Travellers 10 years
      ago and slowly transformed into a caravan park,
      families have been buying tents in preparation
      for their eviction. The camp's 50 or so children
      have no idea whether they will return to their
      primary school after the summer holidays.

      "There is a very real sense of fear and people
      are very worried, especially the old people.
      There's people here ill and infirm who can't be
      going back on the road and there's nowhere to
      go," said Margaret McCarthy, 45, a mother of two
      who, like many others on the site, has vowed to
      fight the eviction, planning blockades and
      protests. "They're trying to destroy our pride
      and our dignity. The British government is trying
      to do away with Gypsies. It's scandalous, but
      nobody is watching, so nobody will help."

      "It's seen as the last bastion of racism. It's
      not socially acceptable to express racism against
      ethnic minorities, but against Gypsies and
      travellers it's fine," said Emma Nuttall of the
      support group Friends, Families and Travellers.

      "We are getting more and more calls from families
      who are in a panic about where they can and can't
      go, desperately trying to find bits of land they
      can buy and get planning permission for before
      the laws change, just so their kids can go to school."

      Hostility from local communities is high. The
      Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland is
      so concerned at the way many local newspapers are
      presenting issues with Gypsies, and the racist
      remarks left on their noticeboards, that it is
      contacting media outlets "to remind them that
      moderation of online comment boards is crucial in
      order to prevent the incitement of racial hatred".

      At Dale Farm, Mary Ann McCarthy, 69, insists on
      an inspection of her immaculate static caravan
      and says the stereotype of "dirty gypsies" is not true.

      "Travellers are very house proud; you always get
      a few people who leave a mess but so does any
      community." Born in a horse-drawn caravan, she is
      wistful of the days when her family would be
      welcomed by farmers who relied on Travellers to
      pick seasonal fruit and at the fairs where their horses were prized.

      "We have never been treated really well, but it's
      never been as bad as now." Additional reporting by Oliver Morrison

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    • Paul Mobbs
      ... Hash: SHA256 ... This measure was promised long before the election. Although the changes officially target gypsies , the anti-trespass powers for police
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 1, 2010
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        On Sunday 01 August 2010 20:39:40 Tony wrote:
        > New wave of evictions threatens Gypsies
        > Families forced off their land and into illegal
        > plots as Eric Pickles drafts tougher trespass powers for police

        This measure was promised long before the election. Although the changes
        officially target 'gypsies', the anti-trespass powers for police will also be
        very effective against protest camps on land where the landowners does not give
        permission (DoT, power companies, etc.).

        This is also very problematic for anyone wishing to live on their own land
        without planning permission, not just travellers. In cases where planning
        permission won't be easily won from the local dead-head planning committees,
        but where the Planning Inspectorate might be persuaded to give permission on
        appeal, this measure is really restrictive. Certainly it's a major headache
        for people trying to live on their land in a caravan or other temporary
        structure in order to establish their right to be there before they go on to
        create a proper eco-development.


        - --

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