Amnesty plea as 400 Irish Travellers face eviction

UP to 400 Irish travellers are facing forced evictions from a farm in east London which is part of Britain’s largest Traveller settlement.

Local authorities in Essex have given notice to leave the site by August 31 to 86 families living at the farm — and have said they will cut off water and electricity supplies following the eviction.

Despite the land being owned by Traveller, Romany and Gypsy families, the Irish Travellers have been denied repeated requests to build residential properties there because of local zoning restrictions.

A portion of the land is classified as “green belt” and has been developed by the Traveller community despite the lack of planning permission.

The proposed eviction would leave residents of Dale Farm without alternative accommodation and without access to essential services such as continuous medical treatment for residents with serious illnesses and schooling for the estimated 110 children living there, according to Amnesty International.

The organisation called on the British authorities to stop the eviction.

“Up to 400 people could be left homeless as a result of the forced eviction. They have no authorised site to move to,” Noeleen Hartigan, programmes director of Amnesty International Ireland, said.

“The authorities must ensure that their actions do not break international law. They should talk to the residents of Dale Farm and reach a negotiated solution.

The eviction notice applies to plots on Dale Farm that the local authority, Basildon Council, says are “unauthorised developments”.

While some residents have been offered bricks and mortar housing, many do not want this. In a lot of cases, residents fear that they will be left homeless.

“A negotiated settlement is a must and the local authorities should work with those living at Dale Farm towards achieving it,” Ms Hartigan said.

“This means genuine consultation, in a manner that seeks meaningful input from Travellers rather than a form-filling exercise. If an eviction is unavoidable, the authorities must ensure adequate alternative housing.”

Irish Travellers are recognised and protected as an ethnic group in English law.

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