Sunday, 9 August 2009

Stop the bulldozing

From Lesley Grahame:

Please come and join protestors outside the Basildon Centre who are opposing a three million pound ethnic-cleansing operation to drive a hundred Gypsy families from the district.

At 12 noon tomorrow (10 August), carrying the flags of the UN, the Romani nation and flags of many other countries, residents of Dale Farm will gather in front of the town hall urging a freeze on the council's forced eviction plans.

Together with supporters, they will present a Legal Memorandum setting out in international law the obligation of Basildon District Council to seek an alternative to its stated aim of bulldozing Britain's largest Gypsy community.

Only last week, the council was told by the UK Government that it must provide land for a minimum of 62 caravan pitches, to enable Traveller families refused permits to live on their own properties to take up legal residence in Basildon.

"We hope commonsense will prevail," says Gypsy Council president Richard Sheridan. "It would cost the council nothing to leave us in peace in our own homes."

So far, talks with Basildon officials, continuing this week, have produced no offer of accommodation or land.

The Legal Memorandum, drawn up by the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, with the help of the Univeristy of Essex Faculty of Law, says Dale Farm families have a strong claim under international law to be resettled - and not thrown out on the road, as the council intends.


Bus and cars leaving Dale Farm at 11 am (Oak Lane, Crays Hill, Essex, CM11 2YH)

Basildon Centre is in walking distance of Basildon Station, St Martin's Square.

Contact numbers for further information: 01206 523528 or 07757533380

Meeting, refreshments and expo afterwards in Saint Christopher's Centre, Dale Farm

The Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition (GTLRC) is an umbrella group of Gypsies, Irish Travellers and New Travellers, which lobbies the Government to raise the inclusion of Gypsies and Travellers and address their accommodation needs. The GTLRC is considered to be a focal point of contact with the Gypsy and Traveller community by the Government and other agencies. The Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition recently won the Liberty human rights award.

The GTLRC notes with concern that Basildon Council has decided to support a forced eviction at Dale Farm Travellers' site, which will cost approximately three million pounds. If the council is unwilling to let the Travellers stay where they are it should leave the Travellers where they are until it has completed the job of assessing Traveller accommodation needs as councils are now obliged to do with that of the settled community and then identify land Travellers can buy.

Alternatively the council could set up a site using Housing Corporation money which will shortly be made available for such purposes. This will enable the Travellers to move off the disputed land without three million pounds being spent evicting them.

To waste three million pounds in such circumstances on a forced eviction is a criminal waste of money, a fraction of this would create an alternative site. Also we need to think of the human cost. An eviction at Dale Farm will be the largest eviction that has taken place in the UK and will affect large numbers of people. Many of the Travellers have serious health problems and cannot live on the side of the road. Children who are attending school for the first time will also find it hard to continue their schooling if they are on the side of the road. Members of the settled community will also be inconvenienced by homeless Travellers trying to find a stopping place whereever they can.

In the name of humanity and common sense the council needs to have a rethink on this matter. We urge them to do so and would be happy to meet council officials and representatives to find a sensible way forward.

For more information contact:

Andrew Ryder

The Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition (Winners of the Liberty Human Rights Award)

Tel 07 985 684 921

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