Tomorrow the High Court will rule on the future of the Dale Farm site. It should listen to the UN and stop the council's eviction plans.
The High Court has informed Dale Farm residents and campaigners that it will make its final judgement on the future of the Travellers' site on Wednesday 12th at 2pm.
The ruling will come 23 days after Basildon Council bailiffs attempted to begin the eviction, and it is a great testament to the strength of the campaign being waged by the travellers and their supporters to block this major and hugely unjust, racially motivated attack on Britain's Irish Travellers and Roma communities.
Hundreds of friends and supporters of the Dale Farm community have set up “Camp Constant” on the site in order to provide round-the-clock support and resistance, whilst thousands have expressed their solidarity online via donations, liking the facebook page or by using Amnesty International's letter writing tool to express their opposition to the relevant people in Basildon Council and central government.
The planned eviction is the latest and most high-profile in a very long line of cases in which the British state has increasingly suppressed Traveller, Gypsy and Roma people's rights to a decent life. Today, according to the Commission for Racial Equality, 90% of traveller planning applications are initially rejected, compared to 20% overall. This is due to planning laws which systematically discriminate against these people.
As Irish Traveller Paddy Cosgrove, star of Channel 4 reality series “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” and winner of Celebrity Big Brother 2011, describes this institutional racism: “When it comes to Travellers you know…Now this is a shameful thing to say, we’re not even treated like second class, never mind first class, we’re treated as nothing, honestly, and we’re human beings… we’ve got feelings.”
A High Court victory for the travellers on Wednesday would not come at a better time. Across Europe attacks on Muslims, Roma and other ethnic minorities have risen dramatically as governments across Europe have attempted to use their ethnic minorities and immigrant populations as scapegoats for rising unemployment and public service cuts inflicted by austerity measures.
Basildon Council's plan in its original form would have seen £18.5m spent on removing nearly 100 families from Dale Farm, a site the travellers have owned for over 10 years. With no alternative pitches provided, they would have been left homeless.
It is the council's continued unwillingness to provide alternative, culturally appropriate accommodation for the affected families that has caused the UN to issue a number of warnings to the British government, on the grounds that this eviction breaks the legally binding Human Rights Act- an act the ConDem government are currently looking to replace with a 'British Bill of Rights'.
Indeed, so unprecdented has the UN's concern been to protect the rights of the travellers that they sent in their Advisory Group on Forced Evictions (UNAGFE) to monitor the operation and officially contacted the UK Government in order to offer on-the-spot mediation; it is the first time that the UN has offered mediation in a difficult situation on the ground in Western Europe.
Since the eviction attempt began, the costs of the operation have soared from £18m to £22m as Basildon Council has paid out millions of pounds in bailiff wages and court fees, funded in part by central government.
The prime minister's endorsement of the eviction and his speeches on how Britain needs a “much more active, muscular liberalism”, which ceases to tolerate “these segregated communities behaving in ways which run counter to our values” go a long way toward explaining how our government claims not to be able to afford to maintain NHS and welfare services at current levels, but can suddenly find millions of pounds to spend on counter-terrorism, 24-hour riot courts and imperialist adventures in Libya, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Basildon Council's claims that the purpose of the eviction is to return the site to green belt status fly in the face of the fact that the very same council desecrated the site before the travellers bought it by licensing it as a scrapyard in the 1960s and then by laying down vast amounts of concrete and other hardcore on the site over the course of 30 years, in order enable long term storage of council lorries and other vehicles.
The evidence came to light after the former owner of Dale Farm, scrapyard dealer Ray Bocking, spoke to local journalists. He said:
“I was the owner of Dale Farm…[and] the council put down the hardcore. For years they hardcored it all….they parked all their cars on it…they put down tonnes of hardcore…and now they want to dig up their own hardcore! ..It’s ridiculous how they are spending other people’s money, £18 million pounds.”
Please support the Save Dale farm campaign by learning more and donating at http://dalefarm.wordpress.com
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