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MRG calls for immediate halt to imminent forced evictions of Irish Traveller families at UK’s Dale Farm

31 August 2011

Eighty-six Irish Traveller families living at Dale Farm in Essex, UK, face eviction from midnight on 31 August following final legal notice from Basildon Council. The Council has also threatened to cut off water and electricity supplies to those caravans slated for eviction.

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) calls for an immediate halt to the forced evictions at Dale Farm and urges Basildon Council to desist from cutting off water and electricity supplies to residents, some of whom are especially vulnerable, such as the elderly and the sick.

‘It is both unreasonable and cruel that Basildon Council is attempting to solve a planning issue by forcing homelessness on 400 people, including 110 children,’ said Mark Lattimer, Executive Director of MRG. ‘The truth is that the Council are relying on popular discrimination against Travellers in order to get away with it.’

Dale Farm, which is on land owned by Traveller, Romani and Gypsy families, is the UK’s largest Traveller settlement. Part of Dale Farm was granted permission for residential use by Basildon Council. However the portion of the land where around 400 Irish Travellers now face eviction has repeatedly been denied planning permission for residential use and deemed ‘unauthorised’ by the local authorities.

Basildon Council has yet to assist the community in identifying suitable and culturally appropriate alternative housing, which it is required to do, according to a number of international human rights bodies and mechanisms, such as the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination , the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing and an Advisory Committee of the Council of Europe.

On 5 August the newly appointed UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák, said, ‘Eviction inevitably renders all affected families extremely vulnerable, including with regard to their access to essential services. This is doubly so for Travellers who may have traditionally rooted specific housing needs, and who face considerable discrimination and hostility in wider society.’

Dale Farm residents will attend a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on 31 August in a final bid to stop the destruction of their homes.

There are an estimated 90,000-120,000 nomadic Travellers and Roma/Gypsies in the UK and a further 200,000 who live in housing, according to the Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition.

Although recognised and protected as an ethnic group by English law the community faces widespread discrimination and, according to the British Medical Association, has the lowest life expectancy and highest child mortality rates in the UK. Ofsted has reported low levels of educational achievement and high rates of illiteracy among Traveller children on account of disrupted education and bullying from other children at school.