Community Legal Advice are not renewing the funding for our highly successful advice line from end of March due to cost cutting measures.
However CLP are setting up their own advice line for Gypsies and Travellers throughout England and Wales on 0121 685 8677.
The service goes live on Monday 27th February 2012.
No Operator Service involved. Get straight through to one of our expert solicitors.
Advice line available Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm. Emergency service available outside these hours.
We take on legal aid cases involving ‘accommodation’ issues e.g. evictions from unauthorised encampments, issues on rented sites (both council and private), homelessness cases, high court planning appeals, planning injunctions, stop notices, direct action cases etc
For a chat about how the service operates and about the work we do please phone us on this new number.
A poster about the service will be sent out as soon as possible.
The Community Law Partnership
An episode from 1998 which sees a Tory Councillor staying a week with New Travellers.
Whilst the lives of travellers have over the last decade changed drastically since this was made with many forced off the road due to more and more legislation, it’s interesting to note Tories remain the same…completely anal and still wishing to dictate how the rest of us should live out our lives!
“8 APRIL” ROMA NATION DAY PROTESTS AGAINST ANTI-GYPSY RACISM
People attending a conference of the Irish Travellers Movement in Britain were barred from entering the Coronet pub, a Wetherspoons establishment, next to the Resource Centre in Holloway Road where the conference was held. Even a police inspector who had spoken to the conference was prevented from entering with other people who had attended the conference. People who had been at a completely different event at the Resource Centre were barred because they were suspected of having attended the Travellers conference. Apparently this was a CORPORATE decision by Wetherspoon’s centrally after they heard that this conference was taking place.
The Travellers Solidarity Network invites you to an event NEXT FRIDAY 9th DECEMBER at 5pm outside the Coronet on Holloway Road to show what we think about this racism. Bring yourselves, your voices, banners, placards and musical instruments!
The Coronet is about 100 yards East of the junction with Tollington Road and about half a mile west of Holloway Tube Station (Piccadilly line). Buses: 43, 271, 153, 4, 29, 91, 253, 259.
The protests around Dale Farm have seen unprecedented solidarity from the settled community. This is just the beginning. All are welcome to this gathering to discuss what activities and actions we want to plan in the future. From Traveller education, to legal support and monitoring, to advocacy and direct action — join us as we launch the Traveller Solidarity Network and decide what form it will take.
05 November · 11:00 - 16:00
40 Adler St,
London E1 1EE
On Tuesday night I fell asleep with a heavy heart after hearing the news that the clearance at Dale Farm was likely to start the following morning. I hoped that, overnight, common sense would prevail and a forced eviction would not take place, but I awoke to the inevitable sight of riot police storming the camp at dawn.
For the residents of Dale Farm, and Gypsies and Travellers all over the world, their worst nightmare was finally coming true. “They’re breaking the law,” I hear many of you cry, “It’s green belt land.” And you are right: it is an illegal camp, and if we want to live in a civilised society we must all uphold the law, no matter what background or culture we come from.
But the law is not black and white, and these people have certainly been let down by the system. Legal wrangling aside, the reality is that hundreds of human beings are about to be dragged from their homes and forced on to the roads.
My overriding emotions are sadness and confusion. I’m writing this from a caravan on my father’s land: it is parked here legally, but the memories of countless evictions from my childhood are etched in my mind. When I look up I expect to see the men in Day-Glo coats walking towards me and I’m filled with a sense of dread. I know how the Irish Travellers at Dale Farm feel as their life crumbles around them and they have nowhere to go. Hopeless is the only word that can describe it.
Most people in the UK don’t want them at Dale Farm or anywhere else in the country. Over 90% of those who responded to a recent poll believe a forced eviction is the right outcome. I won’t use many of the sensationalist terms being thrown around by some of the activists and Travellers involved in the eviction, and I don’t think this is a case of ethnic cleansing; but do I know first-hand how unaccepted the nomadic lifestyle is today. It doesn’t matter how quiet, clean or law-abiding you are, if you live in a caravan you are scum in the eyes of most of the British population.
Gone are the days when the government actively tried to defuse the tension and hostility between settled and travelling people. Sites are not being created, and budgets given to councils to do so are being used for other “more pressing” issues. It is a case of: “Not on my patch.”
Basildon council leader Tony Ball pulled out of discussions with the Homes and Communities Agency – who offered land to rehouse the Dale Farm families within Essex and within a suitable distance to the children’s school. In my opinion that was because keeping them within his borough would lose votes, and votes seem to be more important than human welfare.
A peaceful solution was never going to be found because Ball apparently believes that Basildon already has more than its quota of Travellers. Swap the word Travellers with any other ethnic group and ask yourself if that is an acceptable position to take.
For the Dale Farm community the tragic reality remains: they have nowhere to go. As they exit the site they will be greeted by blocked-up tracks and barricaded lanes, parks with trenches dug around them, and car parks with a heavy security presence. They’ll end up in laybys, the children will have no chance of an education, and their quality of life will be appalling. But at least they won’t be in Basildon.
People all over the country cheer the enforcement officers on, relishing the scenes of distress and trauma. I ask: whatever happened to human compassion?
We are proud to have Cray’s Hill Primary School - ‘the worst school in the England’ – in the family of schools we work with and we invited the school’s chair of governors, Jo Lang, to give the school’s view of the battle raging over the Dale Farm traveller community. This is what she has to say:
There has never been an Irish Traveller eviction in Britain to hit the headlines in the way the Dale Farm land clearance has. National and international media, the United Nations, the European Union, politicians, police, actors, activists, artists…all of human life is here.
Most of the children on the Dale Farm Traveller site of primary school age come to Crays Hill Primary, and we are happy to have them. We have other children, some English Travellers, some local non-Travellers, some children who have been given-up on by other schools, but the vast majority are of Irish Traveller heritage.
Ten years ago, a small legal Traveller site near Basildon began to expand on to land the occupants owned but didn’t have planning permission to live on. The children came to the school, becoming pawns in the village community’s battle to have the pitches without permission cleared and the Travellers moved off. Numbers of Travellers in the school swelled; increasingly village people took their children out, the balance shifted until the Governors walked out in protest. Here we are now, waiting for the bailiffs to start an eviction which will touch the lives of all our children, and strike at the heart of the school community we have built up.
I’ve been chair of governors for the last six years, proud to be associated with the challenges and rewards of a completely unique, very special school, with an amazing, dedicated and child-focussed Headteacher, so with a deep breath and long practice, here is a beginner’s guide to Dale Farm and Crays Hill Primary…
Isn’t Crays Hill the pikey school?
Crays Hill is a community school and we take any child whose parents want to send them here. And, by the way, would you call a school in Stratford a paki school?
Pikey isn’t racist. And anyway, they call us ‘Gorjers’.
‘Pikey ‘is the equivalent of ‘Paki’ or ‘Nigger’. ‘Gorjers’ is what some Travellers sometimes call non-Travellers. It does have negative overtones and, of course, that makes responding in kind absolutely OK because we all know two wrongs make a right, don’t we..
If they live in one place, they can’t be Travellers, can they?
If I went and lived in France, that would make me French, wouldn’t it? If an Indian lives in Britain, that makes them British, right? Being an Irish Traveller is being part of a recognised minority ethnic group. It is a heritage, a way of life, a racial identity and a culture.
If they are Travellers, why do they want to live in one place?
There is no room in our society for Travellers to live on the road, roaming from place to place, sharpening knives and helping at harvest. Our families travel from Ireland, to John O’Groats, across Europe and as far as Australia to work. They also travel to be with family for weddings, births and funerals. But they need to have a place to come back to, where they can have their kids in school, access healthcare, and live their lives when they aren’t travelling.
They’ve broken the law and the law of the land should be applied equally to all.
Well, yes it should, and they don’t have planning permission to live on one side of the Dale Farm site. Bear in mind, though, that 95% of applications for planning permission put forward by Travellers are turned down, Green Belt or not. No other ethnic group suffers this much discrimination at the hands of planning authorities, and it is mostly because nothing unites the people of a village like a campaign against Travellers. Do you think this will improve as the Government develops the opportunity for local residents to have a bigger say in planning decisions?
Crays Hill School has the lowest attendance rates and the lowest attainment of any school in the country, so it must be rubbish, mustn’t it?
Not one but two Ofsted reports say we are ‘Good with Outstanding Features’. Our attendance rate last academic year was 41%. Travellers travel and we keep their places open for them so that as soon as they are back they are in school, with no extra forms to fill in and no time lost. They may only be here for a day, a week, a month, but while they are with us they will get the best possible education. So it knocks our attendance figures. We have data to show that when they are able to attend they do attend, and while they are here their progress is good. Statistically, there are things we could do to improve the data, but actually, isn’t education about children?
The list of questions goes on and on, and so does the discrimination. Irish Travellers have the worst health statistics of any racial group in the UK, and live, on average, ten years less than the national average. They have the worst educational outcomes of any group.
Imagine between a third and half the pupils in your school could be made homeless tomorrow. Think what high levels of anxiety they and their friends and extended family would be feeling and showing. Think what would happen if you lost perhaps 50% of your per capita income next year. How would you keep staff motivated, passionate and professional when they know the land clearance could cost them their jobs? Imagine that a third or more of your pupils will be living on the roadside, education limited to travelling packs that are probably meaningless and indecipherable to their parents and then tell us how you would raise their attainment when/if they return to school.
Our vision for Crays Hill is that it is the school of first choice for all parents in our catchment area, where children learn together, play together, respect each other and breakdown the barriers their parents have built.
After six years of trying it doesn’t feel like we are much furter forward (and if you have any thoughts or recommendations from your own experiences then please them on via email@example.com) but we will keep trying and stay focussed on what school shod be about – giving every child the best possible opportunity to learn and grow.
Click on image to read…
Today members of NCAG joined travellers and their supporters at Dale Farm for a march from Wickford train station to the site and the official opening of ‘Camp Constant‘ where an attempt will be made to fend off the eviction that is now only days away.
The march itself was lively and had a good turn out of a few hundred strong. The only question was where were the mass throng of ‘leftist activists’ who constantly talk a good talk of ‘fight back’ and ‘equality for ethnic minorities’-apart from a handful of union banners, they were noticeable by their absence once again.
As usual the police presence was bordering on the ridiculous and FIT teams were out filming four year olds for their ‘database of domestic extremists’.
If any of our members, friends and supporters are able to get down to the site and help out the residents, we’d encourage you to do so as soon as possible.
Thanks to all at of Dale Farm for having us, our thoughts will be with you over the coming week.
Members of NCAG today are heading down to join the Demo in support of the people of Dale Farm in their struggle against eviction, bigotry and attacks on their way of life.
While we do not normally involve ourselves in ‘identity politics’ it’s plain to see that this particular ‘section’ of the working class are receiving way more than their ‘fair share’ of oppression. It’s difficult to imagine any other minority group in Britain today being attacked by the state etc for their very existence and right to exist.
Join us at Wickford Station at 1pm, Saturday 10th Sept, to march to Dale Farm. Residents and supporters marching together.
The date for the £ 18 million pound eviction of Dale Farm, a former scrapyard which is now home to 90 families, has been revealed to be Monday 19th September. The date was leaked to the local newspaper by a council source.
Dale farm residents are calling on supporters to come to Dale Farm to help them stop the eviction. They are also calling for legal observers and human rights monitors to come down to act as witnesses. Dale Farm is only a half hour by train from London Liverpool Street Station. http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/contact
The council has threatened to close roads around Dale Farm in advance of the eviction, so it is recommended that people come as many days before the eviction as possible. Also, there is plenty of work needed to prepare in advance. Sleeping space in homes are available, but please bring a tent if you can as we expect bed space to be limited to those in need. People are welcome at Dale Farm any time. See http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/activity for details.
Please forward this callout widely, and promote our facebook event http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=120449081388705 through social networking sites.
We also highly recommend people sign up for text alerts https://smsalerts.tachanka.org/dalefarm/ and our email bulletin http://lists.ucrony.net/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/dalefarm-solidarity as we can’t trust the council to not send bailiffs in before the given date.
On 19th September Basildon Council and the coalition government who are financing this will face a moral challenge to explain to thousands of people and the world’s assembled media why they are choosing to make over 100 children homeless and remove them from their schools. The UN has called on the government to suspend the “immature and unwise” eviction, saying it would “disproportionately affect the lives of the Gypsy and Traveller families, particularly women, children and older people”. The eviction has been condemned by a broad coalition of groups, including Amnesty International, trade-unionists, and anti-racism groups.
See you there!
The most depressing thing this week has been the level of bile spewed about people at Dale Farm, now set for an eviction on September 10th. Unlike most, I’ve actually been there.
A few years back I travelled down to Basildon in Essex. I got in a taxi and asked to be taken to Dale Farm on Cray’s Hill. The court case was raging at the time, tensions were high in the local community and when we got to the end of the track up to the site, I was told “this is as far as I go.”
I don’t know what I was expecting as I walked up to the spit of land which has for many years been the focal point for some of the national presses’ worst bigotry and hatred of recent times. I’d only seen photos taken from afar, blurry shots by snappers eager to show the squalid conditions Those People were living in.
And in fairness, when I got there a lot of rubbish was lying around, in piles of black bin bags or drifting around the fences and hedgerows. Basildon Council doesn’t do rubbish clearing on illegal sites. But the actual plots? They ranged from the spotless to the scruffy – pretty much as you’d expect on any estate in Britain. There were a fair few dogs around as well, usually off the leash, but they were friendly and looked well-fed. And of course there were a lot of caravans.
But what might be surprising to the critics is the number of actual houses. Fully plumbed-in, connected homes built on land they paid for and set up in exactly the manner which has been touted as the “solution” to the Traveller “problem” since way back when.
Specifically they’ve been doing this since 1994, when the Criminal Justice Act starting stripping away the onus on councils to provide caravan sites (there’s a shortage of 25,000 at the moment) and Michael Howard said “buy land and we’ll let you settle it.” What has in effect happened in this isolated corner of East Anglia is that 1,000 people who, according to conventional wisdom, are a problem because they move around … are no longer moving around, having taken a Tory at his word.
Which makes the zeal with which an eviction of half the site is being pursued somewhat odd. If Travellers are all basically barely-contained personifications of anti-social behaviour would it not make sense to stop forcing them to sally forth across Britain’s roadsides and fields? Would it not actively make sense to do what was originally promised and let them live in peace on land they own, stripping away not their homes, but the planning system which militates against Traveller applications ?
Of course that’s a logic which only applies if you believe the Dale Farm residents to form, essentially, a wretched hive of scum and villainy worthy of Star Wars . A logic which is easy to use if your closest experience of a people is your mate Robin whose cousin’s best mate’s sister once had a shitty tarmaccing job done by a couple of guys with a suspiciously Irish-sounding accent.
My own experience is somewhat different – and not just because I’ve actually done my homework and know that the presence of Europe’s largest Traveller site has not actually turned Basildon into ground zero for criminal activity (the town does better than average on almost every count).
When I was there, shortly before I was given a cup of tea and invited to look at a ten-year-old’s card to her auntie (“she’ll be our accountant one day,” her mum said proudly) I took in the following impression:
There were a few wideboys on site with a couple of vans which could quite easily hold some hooky gear – or just items from the furniture trade which has been a major source of income for the Sheridans (the main clan on site) for over 30 years.
And there’s a lot of decent enough people of all ages trying to get on with life in the face of massive prejudice and poor education. They’re mostly not criminal masterminds even if they’re a bit rough around the edges, and there was a lot of god-fearing catholicism if the iconography I saw was anything to go by. This coming generation, including that ten-year-old girl, will be the first to be consistently literate as they had an uninterrupted schooling – progress which throwing them back on the roads will help destroy.
None of them deserve what’s going to happen on the 10th, which will be a bigger and even more vicious version of this:
In the film below Conservative MP and Romany Journalist Jake Bowers clash over whether there should be more and better Gypsy and Traveller sites in the South East of England.
The Race Equality Foundation says it would take one square mile of land to provide legal pitches for approx 5,000 families thought to be currently living on unauthorised sites. Now break that one square mile into small pieces among the backdrop of the UK’s 94,525 square miles. Sod all isn’t it…
90 per cent of planning applications for Gypsies and Travellers’ sites are turned down at the first hearing to avoid angering local residents. That is a fact, irrespective of the current hysteria surrounding travelling peoples…irrespective of the likes of Ann ‘Bigotcombe’…irrespective of Eric Pickles and his new planning process to make lives for travellers ‘easier’…and irrespective of the lies of his Department For Communities and Local Government who churn out statistics as ‘facts’ with ‘a Liberal dose of massaging’…