Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

The government’s attempt to eradicate the travelling way of life

As the anniversary of the Dale Farm eviction approaches, Elly Robson explores the deliberate criminalisation of the travelling way of life by the coalition government

October 15, 2012
6 min read

Dale Farm resident, Jean O’Brien, is overcome by emotion during the eviction. Photo by The Advocacy Project/Flickr

‘The law needs to recognise the rights of Travellers. Everyone is pushing you aside, pushing you onto the next place. There’s no solution. Basildon want to push us to Chelmsford, Chelmsford want to push you to Manchester, and Manchester want to push you to the moon. They want to kick you out: once you’re not stopping on their doorstep it’s alright. And that’s not really a way to live. It’s not a way for government people or council’s to be carrying on. It’s not’s a human way to be living or to treat people.’ – Mary Flynn, Dale Farm resident and mother of four.

Hostility towards Travellers and Roma is endemic across the UK today. Local newspapers play on the prejudices of NIMBY local residents, reporting on the fear and anger that Travellers and Roma provoke in settled residents. Programmes like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding have fuelled the fires of discrimination by purposefully manipulating and cashing in on racist perceptions of travelling communities. However, these attitudes also underpin central government policy: earlier this year Eric Pickles’ Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) warned that Traveller sites should ‘not dominate the nearest settled community, and avoid placing an undue pressure on the local infrastructure.’ In doing so, the DCLG present a conflict of interests between settled and travelling communities, implying that there is such a thing as ‘too many’ Travellers and Roma families living in a given area. In effect, they promote racism: the direct link can be seen in this weeks’ Express, which welcomed Pickles’ announcement of unlimited fines on caravans stopping on land without permission with the headline ‘New laws will stop Travellers from invading’.

Negative representations in the Media, racist attitudes and attacks, and discriminatory government directives all contribute to the presentation of Travellers and Roma as outsiders who intrude upon the settled community and can be legally denied the right to a home.

Current government policy amounts to a deliberate attempt to eradicate the travelling way of life. At the heart of the most recent attack on Roma and Traveller rights is Pickles’ DCLG. Evictions aren’t simply local disputes between settled residents and ‘intruding’ Travellers. Despite the guise of ‘localism’ adopted by the DCLG, central government policy is backing a wave of evictions, politically, legislatively and financially.

Twenty per cent of Travellers and Roma live under the threat of eviction, either on land that they own without planning permission or squatting on land. This is not by choice: there is a shortfall of almost 6,000 pitches in the UK, whilst half of all Traveller applications for planning permission are turned down [EHRC, 2012]. The government’s flagship announcement of £60 million for new and improved sites over the next 15 years will only translate into 510 additional pitches, providing just 1/12th of the amount needed. Pickles has used this as a fig leaf of ‘fairness’ to mask the institutional racism that Travellers and Roma face in the planning system. Last years’ Localism Act reinforced legislation criminalising Traveller and Roma communities, abolishing regional targets for councils to provide sites at the same time as allowing councils to evict Traveller and Roma communities even while they are applying for planning permission.

The local impact of the DCLG’s destructive policy agenda is already evident. South Cambridgeshire Council recently reduced its assessment of Traveller and Roma housing needs to zero without even a hint of consultation with the communities concerned. At the same time the council is threatening six Traveller families from Smithy Fen with homelessness. As funding is cut nationally for vital services helping Travellers and Roma engage in consultations and apply for planning permission, these communities become ever more excluded from the processes that determine their right to a home.

The end-game of the DCLG campaign of increased evictions and reduced site provision is the criminalisation and eventual eradication of the travelling way of life. Traveller and Roma communities with nowhere to live are being forced into a cycle of evictions, and ultimately into bricks and mortar accommodation. At Dale Farm, Basildon Council have refuse to accept a duty to provide alternative sites for the community it made homeless, offering bricks and mortar housing to a minority of families. This year has tested the endurance of the Dale Farm community, who have struggled to survive without electricity, water or sanitation on the road leading to their former home. This struggle for survival is a form of resistance; the families refuse to be forced into bricks and mortar accommodation and allow the travelling way of life to be eradicated. As a result, they face a second eviction this winter that may well force them away from the land where their children were born, and onto the side of roads and car parks.

As the anniversary of the last year’s eviction approaches on 19 October, the Traveller Solidarity Network is taking the fight for sites to the doorstep of Pickles’ Department for Communities and Local Government, in solidarity with the families at Dale Farm and Traveller and Roma families facing uncertainty and eviction across the UK. We are fighting for the right to a home and an end to evictions.

Join us.

http://travellersolidarity.org/

https://www.facebook.com/events/140070222801717/

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe

How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency

Empire en vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy

Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network

Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker

In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing

After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry

Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again

Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood

7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.

After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani

If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945

On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.

Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow

The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite

Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences


116