|SAY NO to the UK's largest Eviction of Travellers|
To: The UK Prime Minister
We the undersigned, call upon the Prime Minister to intervene immediately in relation to Basildon Council’s decision to issue a 28 day eviction notice for the forced removal of up to 300 residents from the largest Traveller site in the UK at Dale Farm, Essex. We call upon the PM to stop the forced eviction until satisfactory and culturally appropriate accommodation is identified and secured. If the eviction goes ahead, it will represent the largest ever eviction of Gypsies and Travellers in the UK. It should be remembered that the Travellers threatened with eviction own the land they are living on. The reason for eviction is that they do not have planning permission for the land.There are particular concerns about the impact of eviction on the welfare and well being of up to 150 children and vulnerable adults. Basildon has been contacted by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner who expressed concern that the Council has ‘no plan proposed for ensuring that the health, welfare, education, housing and other needs of the children involved will be protected.’ The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has urged the UK Government to suspend the Dale Farm eviction until an adequate solution is achieved. The UN also urged the Government to guarantee the protection of residents’ housing rights and to abide by its obligations under international Human Rights law. The Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities recently visited Dale Farm to evaluate the situation. The All Party Parliamentary Party for Gypsy Roma Travellers has also expressed serious concerns over the planned eviction and has called on all parties to find a long term sustainable solution to the issue. Basildon has a specific duty under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the ECHR to respect Gypsies and Travellers’ right to private and family life. Chapman v UK established the positive obligation to act so as to facilitate the Gypsy way of life. The planned eviction also raises concerns under Section 10 (2) of the Children’s Act 2004 which requires that action by public authorities should improve the well-being of the children. Basildon Council must abide by their statutory equality duties and respect Dale Farm residents’ rights to health care, education and accommodation. Eviction should not be carried out if it contravenes any of these duties. Any eviction will leave families homeless and result in increased unlawful encampments in Basildon and elsewhere in the UK. Basildon’s eviction from the nearby Hovefields Drive site in June 2010 resulted in homeless Traveller families (including two pregnant mothers and a child with learning difficulties) being repeatedly moved on by Police with nowhere to go. The cost of developing alternative sites for the residents of Dale Farm would be much less than the cost of the eviction. Various figures have been quoted in the press about the costs of the operation – a minimum of £3M for the eviction and £5M for the police and possibly twice as much. This at a time when Basildon is cutting 6.4\% from its budget resulting in 100 council staff losing their jobs and half a million pounds being cut from services for disabled people and repairs to community centres. Basildon Council and Dale Farm residents were previously involved in mediation facilitated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. There is still the opportunity to identify suitable land which could meet the accommodation needs of the Dale Farm residents. There are opportunities for making alternative provision through a Community Land Trust scheme. We urge David Cameron to intervene and ensure an alternative and culturally appropriate solution is found in order that the residents are not forcibly and violently evicted from their own land in Dale Farm.