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Essex Traveller evictions 'could breach human rights'

The United Nations has raised concerns as a local council plans to evict the Travellers from one of the largest sites in Essex.

Some homes in the Dale Farm area.
Some homes in the Dale Farm area.
Image: Google Street View

TWO UNITED NATIONS human rights experts have called on the UK Government to “find a peaceful and appropriate solution, and adequate housing” for more than 300 Irish Travellers due to be evicted from a site in Essex.

The 86 families live on Dale Farm and face eviction before the end of this month.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, urged the UK authorities to halt the evictions and pursue negotations with residents until an agreement that fully conforms with international human rights obligations is reached.

She said that it is important that the rights of the residents to fair compensation and adequate alternative housing are respected.

If the evictions are not carried out “with full respect for international standards”, they would “constitute a grave breach of human rights”.

Rita Izsák, the UN independent expert on minority issues, said that the eviction would render the families vulnerable, particularly those who have “traditionally rooted specific housing needs” which may lead to them facing discrimination and hostility.

The Basildon District Council has been trying to evict these Travellers since the late 1990s.

The reason given is the lack of planning permission for their homes.

Some of the Traveller families own land on the site but have been refused planning permission for their homes.

It is estimated the bill for these evictions is £18 million – but this does not include the cost of rehoming the evicted families.

According to the Irish Times, Basildon District Council leader, Tony Ball, said in a statement that the UN experts’ claims are “ill-founded” and that there was a provision of £1 million for temporary accommodation for the evicted Travellers.

The Total Essex site reports that the Dale Farm Solidarity group will hold a mass march to protest against the eviction on Saturday 10 September.

Two local Bishops have pledged their support for the travellers, Total Essex says.

Roman Catholic Bishop of Brentwood, Thomas McMahon, and Church of England Bishop of Chelmsford, said that they are concerned that breaking up the Traveller community at Dale Farm “will be a serious trauma for all concerned”.

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