Dale Farm Travellers Win Key Concession as Eviction Deadline Approaches

Massimo A. Allamandola suburbanstudio at runbox.com
Wed Dec 12 18:31:44 GMT 2007

News Bulletin 125
Dale Farm Travellers Win Key Concession as Eviction Deadline Approaches
December 11, 2007, Dale Farm, UK and Washington, DC: In a development that could
have major implications for the growing international campaign against evictions,
the Basildon Council in southeast England appears to be softening its position on
the Travellers at the Dale Farm site.
After three years of intimidation and threats against the Travellers, the Council
has let it be known that their rights will be considered before any attempt is made
to evict them. The shift is reflected in documents submitted to Keith Lomax, the
Travellers' lawyer, in advance of a key meeting of the Council's planning committee
this Thursday. (Visit  www.advocacynet.org/page/dalefarm for a timeline of the
The development has brought a glimmer of hope to Traveller advocates, who have
appealed to the British Red Cross for humanitarian support in the event of a mass
eviction, and are even talking to NGOs about setting up a Tent City for displaced
Thursday's meeting will review a decision by the Council to spend £3 million ($6
million) to evict 86 Traveller families (more than 500 people) because they live on
Green Belt land, which is protected from development. The meeting will also give a
sense of how the Council will argue its case before the British High Court, which
will review the Dale Farm controversy starting February 11, 2008.
The Dale Farm confrontation has come to symbolize Britain's inability to integrate
Travellers and Gypsies into society, and also served as a litmus test of the larger
crisis of housing that afflicts Roma and Gypsies throughout Europe.
Mr Lomax welcomed the prospect of a less confrontational position by the Basildon
Council. "They appear to be waking up to some of their duties that they have
previously ignored," he said. "Miracles could happen."
The Travellers suspect that the Council may be trying to soften its image in advance
of the crucial High Court review early next year. But Mr Lomax also pointed out that
the Council is required by law to assess how an eviction would affect race
relations. A local independent body - the Essex Race Equality Council - is currently
collecting data on the Travellers, which leaves little doubt that the impact of
eviction would be shattering.
Second, new government regulations require that an effort be made to find alternate
land for Travellers who are marked for eviction. The Travellers have requested land
at a nearby site, Pitsea. This has been rejected by the Basildon Council, but the
original idea came from the former Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, and Pitsea
is not on Green Belt land. This could make it harder for the Council to maintain a
hard-line position.
Mr Lomax said that an approach based on rights is particularly relevant because the
Dale Farm Travellers include elderly, disabled and sick. Article 8 of Britain's
Human Rights Act calls for the rights of the family to be respected.
Adding to the pressure on the Basildon Council, the Travellers have proved effective
advocates at home and abroad. The Children's Legal Centre at Essex University is
suing the Basildon Council for releasing private data on the Travellers. Last month
sympathizers for the Travellers marched on the British Embassy in Ireland and
protested outside the residence of Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

This summer, The Advocacy Project recruited Zach Scott, a US national and student at
Georgetown University, to volunteer as a Peace Fellow at Dale Farm - much to the
irritation of local residents. After a local newspaper profiled Mr Scott, one reader
commented: "Good riddance tree hugger ....DON'T COME BACK IN A HURRY!!!"  

But the Basildon Council - and the British government - can expect more
international pressure if hundreds of women and children are violently evicted from
Dale Farm and made homeless. In late October, human rights investigators from the UN
and Council of Europe issued a statement deploring the lack of respect for housing
rights in Europe. Four leading organizations followed up by comparing Dale Farm to
several other "serial abuses" in Russia, Romania and elsewhere - a searing
indictment of British policy. 

The latest advocacy tactic by the Travellers is to bring attention to the
destruction that always seems to follow evictions by Constant and Company, the firm
that has been contracted by the Basildon Council to evacuate Dale Farm. The
Travellers are demanding that Constant follow health and safety provisions, and have
asked AP to publicize video footage of previous evictions.

If no agreement can be found between the Travellers and Basildon Council, the losing
side will likely appeal against the High Court decision in February and the case
could eventually go to the House of Lords, the upper house of parliament.

* To support the Travellers of Dale Farm, write to the Basildon Council demanding
that alternate land be found: mailroom at basildon.gov.uk
* For a timeline of the Dale Farm controversy, and accompanying documents, visit:
* For blogs by Zach Scott, visit: http://advocacynet.org/blogs/index.php?blog=82
* For profiles of Zach Scott and the reaction of local residents visit:
* For the statement by the UN and European human rights investigators, visit:


The Advocacy Project is based in Washington D.C. Phone +1 202 332 3900; fax +1 202
332 4600. Visit the AP website for information about our current projects at
www.advocacynet.org. For questions or comments about the AP and its projects, please
email us at info at advocacynet.org

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