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Zero Evictions Red Wheels in UK

Dale Farm is currently the largest Travellers' community in the UK.
The constant threat of eviction is causing enormous stress to all the families at Dale Farm, in addition to those in two smaller Travellers' communities at Five Acre Farm and Hoverfields Avenue. The total number of people involved is over a thousand. Is this a case of ethnic-cleansing? It is perceived as such by the victims, including nine pregnant mothers.

By Grattan Puxon, Former general-secretary of the World Romani Congress

350.000 Gypsies, Travellers, Roma: 500 years of history in UK
A pregnant mother, Kathy Buckland, saw her mobile-home dragged off her own land and burned at the side of the road; 71-year-old William Patrick Egan had his shanty set on fire by bailiffs and all his personal belongs destroyed while his wife Ann, due to go into hospital that day, sat helpless in a wheelchair.
Thousands of people in the UK are being treated in this way: evicted by force from their own properties and left to fend for themselves as "illegal" squatters on car-parks and lay-byes. Why?
Because they belong to a minority, in England for 500 years, which has always suffered from the intolerance, prejudices and racial discrimination of the majority; the Romanies, or Gypsies,
and the Travellers, who despite all obstacles and difficulties cling to their traditions, language and nomadic ways.
Out of 350,000 Gypsies, Travellers and newly-arrived Roma, an estimated 60,000 are on the road at any one time. The latest government count shows that 3,000 families have no legal place to live.

Hunged in 16th century, evicted in 21st century

In the l6th century you could be hung for being a Gypsy. Today, even when settled on their own land, many face the bulldozing of their homes. For forty years, since the foundation of the original Gypsy in l966 and five years later the historical first World Romani Congress in l971 in London, we have been campaigning for a better deal. Though not a born Traveller, I have been part of that campaign, as secretary of the Gypsy Council and organiser, and latergeneral-secretary, of the Congress. It started with the now legendary stand by 400 Travellers at Cherry Orchard in Ireland back in the l960s, which I joined while escaping from military service in the British Army (I oppose war on principle as it solves nothing). Following two years living in a field, without water, electricity or sanitation, we won the campaign for the first council-owned caravan site at Labre Park. And currently, with the grandchild of some of the same families, I'm once more at their side in their resistance to eviction from Dale Farm.
So what has happened in 40 years? And why are we making this final stand at Dale Farm, in the name of Travellers and Roma everywhere?
In the l960s and l970s. Travellers had no choice but to trespass on municipal land, or common land, to place caravans on a dangerous roadside, or pull into a farm's field. You were moved on every week, sometimes more. I was once moved on by police four times in ten days.
Through a hard campaign of grass-roots resistance to evictions, the Gypsy Council gained the passage of the l968 Caravan Sites Act. This eventually led to the provision by local council of some 400 caravan sites. It was not enough but this represented big progress - at the time.
However times have changed. Many Travellers do not like the restrictions imposed by living on council-owned sites. It is difficult or impossible to follow trades, such as paving private roads, furniture dealing, tree lopping, collecting scrap metal. Many council-sites are badly run. A growing number are being closed down. Finally, a powerful blow has been dealt against the Travelling way of life by the l994 Criminal Justice Act. This not only revoked the Caravan Sites Act but gave extra powers to police and local councils to move-on and evict Travellers.
In an ironic twist, Travellers were advised by the Government to buy their own land and set up their own caravan parks. Many have done so.
But the catch is that you cannot get planning permission to reside in a caravan, or mobile-home, on your own land. Councils in Britain refuse permission to Gypsies nine out of ten times.
Development legislation supposed to help those who apply for permits as Gypsies instead only stigmatise. In desperation, families are compelled defy the law and move onto land they have bought before a permit is issued.
Evictions have become more brutal since the coming into prominence of the private bailiff company, Constant & Co . Mr Constant's firm has earned millions of euro moving families on and carrying out large scale evictions from land owned by Gypsies. Thus Cliff Codona, now a delegate to the European Roma and Travellers Forum in Strasbourg, had his model Romani heritage centre, Woodside, in Bedfordshire, bulldozed last year. Fifty families were forced back on the road, their childrens schooling interrupted and ruined. He is still fighting his case through the courts.
Worse than this in its destructive horror was the eviction by Constant for Chelmsford Borough Council of 20 families from their own Meadowlands Caravan Park , in January 2004. In the course of this, conducted with riot police, Kathy Buckland's mobile-home was set on fire, another caravan burned, and children terrorised.
At Twin Oaks Farm, owned by members of the Sheridan clan, a police-led eviction commenced at 4 am on 6 January last year. Women and children were turned out of their caravans to stand in the dark and cold.
Again huts were burned, including that of William Egan, and much property needlessly destroyed. The police escorted families driven out of Twin Oaks Farm from Hertfordshire over the border into Essex. Most of them then took refuge at Dale Farm, in the Basildon district.

Dale Farm: the largest Travellers' community in the UK

Dale Farm is currently the largest Travellers' community in the UK. It was started in the l970s when Basildon District Council , under a Labour Party administration, gave planning permission to some 40 families. With evictions taking place like that at Twin Oaks and Meadowlands, "internal refugees" began to arrive in increasing numbers at Dale Farm. Now, however, Basildon was under a Conservative administration head by Malcolm Buckley.
Together with Conservative MP John Baron, he began to wage a virulent anti-Gypsy campaign . Part of his "case" is that Basildon has already "provided" for many Traveller families. Only this provision consists of no more than planning consent for private development.
We ask what other ethnic-group is restricted or "rationed" as to how many can live in the district?
The recent extension of Dale Farm has taken place mostly on land which was previously a licensed scrap-yard. Hundreds of old wrecked car bodies were piled there. They have been removed and replaced by well-kept yards, with ornamental walls and gates, neat new chalets and mobile homes, and new caravans. The Sheridans have created here a self-supporting community, following a traditional way of life base on the extended family. In private they speak Gammon, which is believed to have traces of a pre-Celtic language, as well as English.
Catholic by faith, and with new ties to the small Catholic parish and its priest, the clan have recently celebrated several baptisms and weddings. Unhappily, a number of deaths have also occurred, including those of a husband and wife who perished in a caravan fire. The remains were removed for burial in County Limerick, Ireland, the ancestral home of the Sheridans.
Forty years ago, their mainstay trade was in old furniture, which some continue. Now many sell new suites of furniture, travelling as far as Spain and Scandinavia, Germany, France and even Iceland, to find new customers. However, the Dale Farm settlement, which is like a separate village or township, includes a large proportion of elderly and sick persons, no longer able to face the rigors of travelling. Some l50 children attend local schools, enjoying an uninterrupted education for the first time.

5 million Euro to bulldoze Dale Farm despite opposition of UK Commisson for Racial Equality

The response to the Dale Farm community has been relentlessly negative and racist. During the last UK general election, then head of the Conservative Party Michael Howard stood on the perimeter of Dale Farm and told a camera crew "unauthorised encampments must be done away with."
The local member of Parliament, John Baron (Conservative), instead of listening to the problems of his new constituents, is leading the anti-Gypsy campaign, saying "they must abide by the law". Yet every attempt to legalise the situation has been thwarted. Basildon council have refused hundreds of planning applications and issue countless enforcement notices.
Recently, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has helped Dale Farm by giving us two years "temporary" stay. This expired in May 2005. In June last year, the council's Development Control Committee recommended the expenditure of up to £3 million (roughly five million euros) to bulldoze Dale Farm and "return it to greenbelt".
This recommendation was endorsed by the full council,with a majority of just four votes.
Both the Labour Party and Liberal Party members are opposed to forced eviction. Labour Party head in Basildon Nigel Smith says force should not be used and the expenditure of so much money to "restore" a small area of greenbelt is disproportionate. He says the decision "could be racially tainted".
Meanwhile, the Commission for racial Equality has joined with Dale Farm families in a Judicial Review of Basildon council's decision (due to be heard on 14 March). And fresh planning appeals were due for hearing, starting 21 February.

Right-wing Basildon Council plan to evict over one thousand people

The constant threat of eviction is causing enormous stress to all the families at Dale Farm, in addition to those in two smaller Travellers' communities at Five Acre Farm and Hoverfields Avenue. The total number of people involved is over a thousand. Is this a case of ethnic-cleansing? It is perceived as such by the victims, including nine pregnant mothers.
If the eviction took place, an entire school, Crays Hill Primary School, where all the children but one are from Dale Farm, would close. Everyone, the old and sick, the young and vulnerable, would be thrown onto the road with nowhere legal to live. They would end up in caravans on a supermarket car-park or side of a dangerous road.
The Brentwood, Billericay and Wickford Primary Care Trust has issued a statement warning an eviction will result in violence and that women and children will be physically injured. In addition, the children witnessing such violence, including the levelling of their homes, will suffer psychological damage.
This warning has been considered but overruled by Basildon council in favour of "preserving" a few acres of so-called greenbelt land.
The UK Government has again intervened with a proposal from Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott for an alternative piece of land to be provided for all the families at Pitsea, a village on the other side of Basildon.
The response by John Baron MP has been to collect 5,000 names on a petition against this proposal, despite the fact that the land at Pistea is in a "brownfield" zone set aside for industry and is not in the "greenbelt".

International solidarity: we want Dale Farm to be left alone

However, it must be said that the families at Dale Farm, who have invested so much in creating a community there, do not want to have their clan-home split into two. For half of Dale Farm is now "legal" and half is regarded as "illegal".
Their hope is that Mr Prescott can be persuaded on appeal, supported by an international petition by the IAI, to grant permanent planning permission and save them from the bulldozer.
Stated simply, we want Dale Farm to be left alone.
And we are making our stand here in the hope of ending evictions of our people all over Britain
and the rest of the world. We want the ethnic-cleansing to stop. Please help us.
For more information on Dale Farm, Travellers in the UK, and the wider issues of Roma in Europe:
Click here to watch the video.
Read the UN-AGFE report on evictions in UK.
Click here to understand the UN-Committees Observations on rights violations in UK.
What can we do? A great deal, as has been shown by the other Zero Eviction Campaigns . They work by creating solidarity links between local mobilisation and tens of thousands of people who give concrete support to the struggle, even just by signing a petition.

That is why international solidarity is essential.

Click here to sign the Appeal!

Your signature will reach the institutions involved immediately.

Send this appeal to your friends for them to sign.

Appeal Red Wheels

We, associations of inhabitants, international networks, voluntary groups, NGOs, public agencies, citizens of the world, and forceful removal being perpetuated against Roma and Travellers which have taken place or are threatened in many cities and towns, from Belgrade and Budapest to Birmingham, Athens, Kaliningrad, Novosibirsk and Milan They signed the petition 527 people!

Ustiben Report



By Grattan Puxon Of all this year's events marking Roma Nation Day in the UK - and it was the biggest package yet- the most poignant for me was the sight of actor Michael Collins, over here from Dublin for the Red Wheels Festival , shovelling away an earth barrier at Five Acre Farm.


by Grattan Puxon A High Court Judge yesterday (12 April) ruled as unlawful a decision by Basildon District Council to bulldoze further yards at Hovefields Avenue, a Gypsy colony not far from Dale Farm, Britain's largest Travellers' community which has been under siege for the past four years.