August 24, 2011

Amnesty appeals for Irish Traveller eviction to stop

by Jan Harris

Amnesty International has launched an appeal in support of Irish travellers who are facing eviction from Dale Farm in Essex.

The human rights organisation is appealing to Basildon Borough Council, which issued the eviction notice, and the Department for Communities and Local Government, to stop the eviction process going ahead.

The move would affect 86 families, leaving them without an authorised site on which to relocate their caravans and with no access to medical care or education.

The families are expected to leave the site by 31 August and the council will then cut off the site’s water and electricity.

Amnesty International warns that the council’s actions could break international law as it has not engaged in an effective consultation with the travellers.

Under human rights legislation the council should ensure that alternative culturally adequate housing is available for the Irish Travellers, a culture which is recognised and protected as an ethnic group in English law.

Although Dale Farm is located on land owned by Traveller, Romani and Gypsy families, some families are living on parts of the site where planning permission for residential use has been denied, in line with local zoning restrictions.

It is these families who face eviction, although some of them have lived there for as long as 11 years.

Earlier this month, human rights experts from the UN appealed to the UK government to help resolve the problem.

In a statement, Raquel Rolnik, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing said: “Evictions constitute a grave breach of human rights if not carried out with full respect for international standards.

“We urge the UK authorities to halt the evictions process and to pursue negotiations with the residents until an acceptable agreement for relocation is reached in full conformity with international human rights obligations.”

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