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Travellers demonstrate against eviction

Salman Shaheen



children protesting against evictionProtesters marched on Basildon Town Hall this weekend, demonstrating against the threatened eviction of one of Europe’s largest traveller sites, at Crays Hill, near Wickford, home to around 80 families.

Basildon District Council said that the travellers are breaching planning permission laws. This is a particular problem facing many travellers around the country, who have bought their own land and have applied for retrospective planning permission, only to have it refused.

Often planning permission laws are cited simply to kick Gypsies off the land. Kathleen McCarthy, member of the Gypsy Council and resident at the site for the past three years, said she was told “they had enough Gypsies in Essex and didn’t want any more." However, more often than not, this simply shifts both the issue, and the families, to another area, where they will face the same conflicts.

It is a misconception that travellers simply like to travel. Whilst travellers I’ve met have reported that the open road is in their blood, they often like to have a permanent base that they can return to. Given the choice, many would travel far less than they are forced to. The myths that Gypsies do not work, pay taxes or send their children to school is often perpetuated by that fact that they cannot do these things if they are constantly being forced from their homes. McCarthy continued, “We want somewhere to live and somewhere to educate our children, who are happily settled in schools in the area.”

Whilst council leaders and Middle England alike bemoan their loss of green belt to the caravans, underneath their purple passage talk of a green and pleasant land, lies thinly veiled racism. The travellers will not be forced into houses, and their human rights must be defended, along with their way of life. The only way the politicians will be able to solve the ‘travellers question’ will be to reverse the brutal Criminal Justice Act and ensure that councils all around the country provide a generous number of legal sites for them to stay.

 

 

May 2005

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