The High Court ruled today that Basildon Council does not have a duty to provide ‘culturally appropriate accommodation’ for three evicted Dale Farm residents. Travellers and their supporters condemned the ruling as a blow to Traveller and Gypsy rights in the UK .
The ruling follows recent criticism of the UK authorities by the EU commissioner for Human Rights for the ‘deeply regrettable’ eviction at Dale Farm. Thomas Hammarberg called for an ‘end [to] be put to violations of the right to adequate housing of Travellers in Basildon’. These criticisms were echoed earlier this month in an Equalities and Human Rights Commission report on Human Rights in the UK, which found that the ‘lack of sufficient sites means it is difficult for Gypsies and Travellers to practice their traditional way of life’ .
Lawyers for the Travellers argued that forcing them into bricks-and-mortar accommodation constitutes an attempt to destroy their distinctive culture. Almost all of the 83 Dale Farm families displaced by the eviction have registered as homeless and they have stated that they want a pitch for their mobile homes and not a council house or flat. However, Lord Justice Patten and Lord Justice Pitchford rejected this argument.
Mary Sheridan, a homeless Dale Farm resident, said “This is terrible news – not just for us, but for Travellers everywhere. The law in the UK wants to destroy the Traveller way of life. We’re already living in desperate conditions at Dale Farm – it’s like a refugee camp. We don’t know where we will go – we just want to live a normal life with our community, so that we can care for our elderly and get our kids an education.”
Lily Hayes, a member of the Traveller Solidarity Network, added, “The UK is already failing its human rights obligations to Travellers and Gypsies. Pickle’s localism has abolished any national strategy for providing sites, and this disgraceful ruling opens the door to the complete destruction of the Travelling way of life. We need to stand side by side with Travellers and Gypsies to resist these unjust and racist laws.”
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 MARY FLYNN, JOHN SHERIDAN & BARBARA O’BRIEN v BASILDON in HIGH COURT. Wednesday February 29/ Thursday March 1. The Rolls Building, 100 Fetter Lane, London EC4