Traveler sites across Europe are facing eviction from their homes in a wave of mounting intolerance against traveler communities.
On Tuesday 7th September, the eviction of seven traveler families began at the Hovefields site in Essex. At 8 in the morning bailiffs Constant & Co, accompanied by police, arrived at the site and began telling families to leave their homes. The bailiffs occupied a pitch at the site, which they made a base for their operations, and then proceeded to bring in diggers to smash plots of ground, preventing later re-entry.
Many individuals attended the eviction as legal observers and monitors of human rights and health and safety. They documented the eviction, and identified numerous breaches of international human rights law, including the failure to provide alternative housing, the disruption to children’s education, and the failure to keep heavy machinery within the safety perimeter. There were no authorized government representatives present and bailiffs and police refused to facilitate legal observers’ access to the site. When these issues were brought up with the police overseeing the eviction process, they refused to respond, maintaining that they were there to prevent breaches of the peace by those resisting eviction, no matter the legality of the operation itself.
Two supporters were arrested early in the day, and a seventy-two year old man, John Lee, had his nose fractured after his face was smashed into his caravan before legal observers arrived.
At the end of the day, one pitch had been bulldozed, and three families had left the site. The other four families whose pitches are being evicted stayed, though the bailiffs had already cut off access to electricity and water for the majority of the site. The families who left the Hovefields site went to a nearby unoccupied site that had previously been earmarked by the national government as a potential resettlement area; but this move was refused by Basildon Council, eager to chase the traveler community out of Essex. Police arrived at 9 this morning with a 3 hour ultimatum for the families to move on. The eviction is likely to be ongoing through this week – people interested in coming up to provide human rights monitoring and support should contact savedalefarm[at]gmail.com.
The Hovefields site eviction is taking place in the run-up to the planned eviction of the Dale Farm traveller site, very close to Hovefields. Bailiffs Constant & Co., whose conduct is the subject of serious complaints relating to brutality and human rights breaches, were recently granted a £2 million contract by Basildon District Council to evict Dale Farm. Dale Farm is the largest traveller site in England, and is home to roughly one thousand people. The eviction, pushed through by the Conservative-controlled Council, is being monitored by the United Nations Advisory Group on Forced Evictions and the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Like the Hovefields families, the Dale Farm community is facing intolerance, racism and brutal evictions, and it is vital that people come forward to provide support in the run-up to the planned eviction.
It is essential that people mobilize to support the Dale Farm community in the coming weeks. Check out https://dalefarm.wordpress.com for information about human rights monitoring, local groups, and getting involved in the campaign to save Dale Farm. The Dale Farm Support network urges people across the UK to form groups and arrange transportation for coming up to Dale Farm when the eviction commences. Supporters will be notified of the eviction via a text message service – sign up at: https://smsalerts.tachanka.org/dalefarm.
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