Talk, film and discussion about practical solidarity action to support the Dale Farm Community: Brighton, 8pm, Wednesday 5th January 2011, Cowley Club, London Road.
Dale Farm is a long established Travellers' community in the countryside near Basildon, Essex. This, the largest of its kind in the country, is home to nearly 1,000 people.
Half the residents are now under threat of imminent eviction, after being refused permission to live on their own land.
In response to an Urgent Action Appeal from the residents of Dale Farm, including Richard Sheridan, head of the Gypsy Council, we are holding an information evening in Brighton to gain support for practical solidarity action.
Travellers have been living on the threatened part of the Dale Farm estate for ten years. They have a strong attachment to the nearby catholic church and their children go to local schools.
The community has been resisting forced eviction attempts by Basildon District Council since May 2005 when it voted to clear a large part of the settlement at a cost of £3m.
Basildon has refused all attempts to regularise the planning situation, preferring the enforcement option, and have contracted a notorious bailiff company, Constant & Co, which specializes in evicting Gypsies. Both Labour and Liberal councillors have denounced the eviction as an act of ethnic-cleansing.
In March 2010 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issued a letter urging the UK Government to suspend the eviction until an positive solution is achieved, with the participation of the community, guaranteeing protection of housing rights through provision of adequate alternative accommodation. http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/UK_12.03.2010.pdf).
After a long struggle to register as homeless, some families have been offered substandard council flats. All have refused as they want to keep their community together and continue a traditional way of life. However, county court judge has ruled that they should accept conventional housing and appeal to the high court is now being prepared. It will be argued that an offer of land for the Travellers from the Homes and Communities Agency makes it possible and practical for Basildon to allow development of a new mobile-home park as an alternative for those facing eviction.
Meanwhile, the community-based Dale Farm Housing Association has submitted a planning application to create such a park on HCA land.
After the recent eviction of seven families from Hovefields near Dale Farm the council failing to provide any alternative accommodation. All were left homeless and most were moved on by police under s61 of the Criminal Justice Act wherever they tried to camp.
During the eviction legal observers identified numerous breaches of international human rights law, including the disruption of children's education, and a failure to keep heavy machinery within the safety perimeter.
Two supporters were arrested early in the day, and a seventy-two year old man, John Lee, had his nose fractured after his face was smashed against his caravan.
This eviction tore apart a community and has shown Basildon's complete disrespect for Travellers' right to private and family life and the secure enjoyment of their homes (Article 8, European Convention on Human Rights [ECHR]).
The new UK Coalition Government has cancelled the duty to provide much needed new caravan parks for nomadic Gypsies and Travellers and removed the requirement to designate land for their accommodation.
Many thousands of Gypsy families are thus forced to live illegally on land they have purchased but where they have been denied through strict planning laws to set up permanent homes.
Another generation of Travellers are losing the chance of a regular education for their children, while the old and the sick are deprived of care and medical attention.
The stand being made by residents at Dale Farm is therefore vital to the future of Gypsies and Travellers in the UK. It should be seen as part of the fight-back by Roma all over Europe following the burning of camps in Italy, deportations from France, murders by neo-fascists in Hungary and Romania, and wholesale ethnic-cleansing from Kosovo, among many other acts of intolerance and racism that have occurred in the past two decades.
The Dale Farm community is therefore seeking your solidarity. Practical support is needed in the form of legal observers and human rights monitors, as well as non-violent resistance during the planned eviction operation, which could last three weeks.
In the meanwhile support and solidarity action is called for. In particular opposition needs to be mobilized against the special funding by the Home Office of the Dale Farm eviction. Essex police have asked Theresa May to provide up to £10m to cover policing. Without this funding the eviction attempt might have to be abandoned.
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