- British government still to respond to UN High Commissioner’s request for official visit to mediate Dale Farm dispute
- UN Advisory Group on Forced Evictions to visit Dale Farm today
As the forced eviction of Travellers from their homes on the former scrapyard at Dale Farm fast approaches, the United Nations has become increasingly anxious that international law is being ignored by the British government and a local authority, Basildon Council.
On 5 August, two UN human rights experts, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik and UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák, called on the British government to find a peaceful and appropriate solution with adequate alternative housing for the 86 Traveller families faced with forced eviction, before the end of August. “Evictions constitute a grave breach of human rights if not carried out with full respect for international standards,” warned the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik. “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.” The British government did not respond.
Then on 2 September, the United Nations issued a strongly worded statement ‘expressing its deep regret at the insistence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland authorities to proceed with the eviction of Gypsy and Traveller Families at the Dale Farm in Essex before identifying and providing culturally appropriate accommodation.’ The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on the British government to halt the forced eviction. Again the British government did not respond.
Last week, noting that the British government had not sought a peaceful solution that respected human rights, as called for by the UN, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva officially contacted the UK Government and is awaiting it’s response to several items, including an offer that the Office of the UN High Commissioner’s Regional Representative, Jan Jařab, could visit and attempt to mediate on the spot. The enormity of the issue is clear: this is is the first time that the UN has offered mediation in a difficult situation on the ground in Western Europe. The British government, again, has yet to respond.
The UN Habitat Advisory Group on Forced Evictions will hold a press conference at Dale Farm on Wednesday 14 September at 13.00 to launch a report on the evictions of Gypsies and Travellers in the London Region. The chair of the UN group, the internationally respected author and planning specialist Prof Yves Cabannes, accuses the UK government of double standards over the treatment of Travellers at Dale Farm.
And on 13 August, Sir Richard Jolly, the former Deputy Executive-Director of UNICEF and UN Assistant Secretary-General said in a message to the residents of Dale Farm “I have been following events at Dale Farm with a growing sense of outrage. I spent twenty years of my life as an Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations – almost fifteen of them with UNICEF at the time of the formulation, adoption and ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Sir Richard went on to point out that “The convention and these articles apply to children in Dale Farm along with other provisions for Human Rights as the United Nations has made clear. The UK government, having given solemn commitments to the Convention on the Rights of the Child has clear obligations to ensure that its provisions are fulfilled.”
This is an unprecedented volume of United Nations condemnation on the plans to forcibly evict Travellers from Dale Farm next week. Will the British government continue to ignore the United Nations and human rights?
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UN Experts statement on Dale Farm: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11282&LangID=E
UN CERD statement on Dale Farm: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/statements/DaleFarm_Statement.pdf