The rights of Roma and other travelling people
The latest ideas coming from reformists on migration are worth discussing.
On the one hand you have a recent Institute for Public Policy Research report which argues that we have to accept freedom of movement of labour within the EU and it distances itself from UKIP and the Tories. That’s fine. But it also talks about being tough on the misuse of these rights.
Andy Shallice, an socialist activist based in Sheffield, spoke to Solidarity about the background to David Blunkett’s recent attacks on Roma migrants living in Page Hall, Sheffield.
In the original Radio Sheffield interview Blunkett did [about frictions between Roma and other communities living in Page Hall] there were no quotes about race riots.
The French philosopher Michel Foucault once said that the way those with most power talk about those with least power always shines new light on the nature of power. We have learned a lot about power in the last week.
On 11 November, Sheffield Brightside MP and former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett claimed that the influx of central European Roma migrants into the Park Hall area of his constituency was causing so much friction there could be riots. He blamed the Romani migrants. He said:
Solidarity 301 (25 October) reported on the case of Maria, the “unusual” girl found living in a Roma community in Greece and removed from her family.
Fanned by racist outcries from the media, Maria was quickly proclaimed to probably be of Northern or Eastern European origin and in all likelihood trafficked, all based on her physical appearance.
The case of a young girl named Maria living in a Roma community in Greece has caused a disturbing outcry.
She was noticed by the authorities because “she looked unusual... lack of resemblance between the blonde-haired, green-eyed, pale-skinned little girl and her parents”.
In October 2011, Basildon Council violently evicted 83 families from land they owned (at Dale Farm) because they did not have planning permission.
Now, Basildon Council has told families who have virtually nothing left that they must pay £4.3 million for the cost of the eviction!
Roma, Traveller, and socialist activists demonstrated outside the Czech and Slovakian embassies in Kensington on Tuesday 13 November against the policy of “special schools” for Roma children in these countries.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has called the schools “Educational Apartheid”.
The schools, which are invariably inferior and chronically underfunded, have continued to exist in defiance of a ECHR ruling, and illustrate the rising tide of anti-Roma persecution across the former Eastern Bloc.
On 20 September, around 50 supporters of the Traveller Solidarity Network gathered in Toynbee Hall in East London to launch a new campaign, Fight For Sites.
A new traveller solidarity network has been set up to support families who are being evicted from their homes despite the huge questions raised by the Dale Farm eviction last month.
The Traveller Solidarity Movement met in London on 5 November to discuss strategy after Dale Farm.
The meeting resolved to set up the network, linking local supporter and activist groups, including anti-fascist and anti-racist organisations, with regional travellers.
A website and mailing list is being set up, but to get involved now subscribe to the Dale Farm mailing list.
Police and bailiffs finally succeeded in breaking the resistance of traveller families and their supporters and, on Wednesday 19 October, began clearing plots at the Dale Farm campsite.
Over 100 riot police were mobilised to aid with the eviction and tasers were used on travellers and activists defending the site.
Electricity to the caravans was disconnected, endangering the life of a man whose defibrillator stopped working. He was later rushed to hospital.
34 people were arrested.
Travellers at the largest “illegal” encampment in Europe lost their last battle in the courts on 17 October and now face eviction.
On Tuesday 18th (as we go to press) Basildon Council confirmed that the eviction will begin on the 19th. Families must now rely on mobilising as many as possible and direct action if they are to resist the bailiffs.
The council is evicting 83 families from 49 plots on the site because they are in breach of planning law. The former scrapyard they own and live on does not have permission for residential use.
One of two legal cases brought against Basildon Council to stop the eviction at Dale Farm travellers site has forced some concessions.
The Council has to leave five pitches and several structures intact.
As full “clearance” can no longer go ahead, it should seriously undermine the stated intention of council’s eviction: to “return” the site to the green belt. That is a nonsense — the site was originally a scrapyard.
The outcome of another legal case challenging the entire eviction will be available before 8 October.
Residents at Dale Farm travellers’ site have been granted a further temporary injunction (until Thursday 29 September) by the High Court, stopping Basildon Council from proceeding with their eviction.
If a judicial review brought by Dale Farm is allowed to go ahead the eviction could be postponed indefinitely. But that is not certain.
Dale Farm still needs our support: see dalefarm.wordpress.com. If you can get there to help resist the eviction on 29 or 30 September, or this weekend, please do!
The families facing eviction at the Dale Farm travellers’ site near Basildon in Essex have been granted a legal injunction (until Friday 22 September) preventing the council from entering the site to clear away caravans and the built structures — the homes of over 50 families.
This is the latest, and most critical stage, in a ten year battle between the travellers (who own the land) and the council who refused permission to the residents to develop the land.
Hundreds of people marched on 10 September to show their support for the travellers of Dale Farm, who are facing the prospect of imminent, violent eviction by Basildon Council.
The atmosphere on the march — a mix of young and old, including travellers, locals and others from further afield — was vibrant and the speakers were positive about the chances of the campaign preventing the eviction.
The eviction by Basildon council of 90 Traveller families from their homes at Dale Farm in Essex is set for Monday 19 September.
Since the High Court ruled that the eviction could go ahead, the Travellers and their supporters have been making plans to resist it.
Over the weekend of 27-28 August more than 100 supporters visited Camp Constant, a base for human rights monitors and those who will engage in civil disobedience to stop the bulldozing. They discussed the campaign against eviction and learnt about Traveller and Gypsy history and culture.
Dale Farm travellers’ community in Basildon, Essex has been fighting a battle against eviction by District Council for the past ten years. From the end of August they could face the bailiffs.
The momentum of the current attacks on the travelling community stems from racism towards gypsies in towns like Basildon — reflected in the council’s willingness to spend £18 million on this eviction in a period of austerity and cuts, but nothing on providing alternative sites.
Hundreds of travellers face eviction from a site in Essex after the Home Office said it would cough up half the cash for a costly police operation.
Local councillors on Basildon District Council voted in April to evict 96 families from the Dale Farm site near Crays Hill, Basildon.
Essex Police estimated the cost of policing the eviction — not the actual operation itself — would be £9.2 million. Previously Basildon Council couldn’t afford that figure, so the travellers stayed in their homes, on their own land.
Dale Farm, the UK’s largest traveller site, home to 1,000 people, is under imminent threat of eviction, by Tory-run Basildon council. The people facing eviction have not been offered suitable alternative space or accommodation.
Get in touch to help resist this: http://dalefarm.wordpress.com email@example.com
Tories in Essex have voted to spend up to £8 million evicting more than ninety Traveller families from a site at Dale Farm in Crays Hill.
The decision was made by Basildon Council on 14 March at a packed meeting, despite opposition from Labour and Lib Dem councillors.
There have been legal battles over the site since the first families occupied the area in 2001.
Opponents said the decision, which commits a third of the council's annual budget, could lead to more job cuts and make children and elderly people homeless.
According to the BBC, the documentary series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding is Channel 4's most popular programme since Big Brother in 2008, peaking at 7.4 million viewers.
Unsurprisingly, the show concentrates on stereotypes: horse fairs, lavish wedding dresses and bare-knuckle fighting. Despite the title, most people featured are Irish Travellers rather than Roma and the issues facing the community are barely mentioned.
Evictions began at a 50 pitch travellers’ site in Essex this week, marking the beginning of the end of a long battle between the gypsy community and the local authority.
Feminists Against Borders will hold their first meeting, “Moving gender”, as part of the Gatwick No Borders Camp, Friday 21 September, 10am-1pm, Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Road, Croydon.
According to Understanding Prejudice, a major new study commissioned by the gay rights group Stonewall prejudice is rife in Britain. Two-thirds of white people in Britain admit to some prejudice, even if only casual or unintentional, against one or another or against several minority groups.
Roma and travellers across Europe mark 2 August as a day to recall the persecution of gypsies in Europe under the Nazis. On the night of August 2 and 3, l944, several thousand were massacred in the gypsy camp at Auschwitz.
As this day draws nearer gypsies and travellers in Basildon Essex are fighting persecution once again. To protest against the planned eviction from Dale Farm they will hold on 1 August a rally and demonstration outside the Planning Appeals Enquiry at Basildon Centre, St Martin’s Square, Basildon. It starts at 11am.
By Cathy Nugent
During 2000, hysterical media debate about asylum seekers targetted gypsies, specifically Roma people from eastern Europe.
The Roma people share the same roots, but are made up of many culturally diverse groups world wide. Not all gypsies are Roma. Roma asylum seekers in Britain are generally fleeing from persecution in the Balkans and eastern Europe.
By Sally Alexander
“An unprecedented mass eviction of a whole community”: that’s how a Labour councillor described the “direct action” operation voted through by Basildon’s Tory council on 14 July.
The Tories have used the election campaign to pour scorn and hatred on gypsies and travellers. This has spurred the Sun newspaper into an explicitly racist "Stamp on the Camps" campaign against travellers, and there has been an increase in physical attacks on travellers.
By Rosalind Robson
For some months now the Tories and Labour have been trying to win votes by competing to see who can be the most “hardline” against asylum seekeers. More recently the Tories have added gypsies and travellers to their list of “undesirables”.
Michael Howard has probably beaten Tony Blair with his nasty populist election campaign. Now he is “out on the stump” spewing out his message — “It’s not racist to want to control immigration”; and “Let’s clamp down on illegal traveller sites.”
Around 300 travellers (mostly Roma gypsies) marched through London's West End on 9 April in protest at the mounting number of evictions from traveller sites. The march followed a church service remembering the victims of the porrajmos (the Holocaust), and of more recent ethnic cleansings and pogroms across Europe.