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Sunday, 1 August 2010

Gypsy evictions rooted in racism? (UK)

The UK government's move to drive Gypsies and Irish Travelers from public lands has triggered a wave of outrage among human rights activists.

The new laws will strip many gypsy families from the right to camp on public property and force them to return to illegal camping on the side of roads, the Guardian reported.

According to human rights groups, the move, which will threaten a whole way of life, will also deprive children of the chance to attend schools and make it more difficult for the elderly to access the crucial health services they need.

Communities And Local Government Minister Erick Pickles is to introduce new laws, which will enable the police to evict and arrest people more easily for trespassing on public land.

His proposed laws will also suspend new applications and those in the process of examination for permits to park caravans on private land.

Former administrations had launched efforts to allocate caravan "pitches" to travelers within all local authorities to prevent the prospect of gypsies having to camp illegally.

As with Pickles' decision to axe the councils' budget for the "pitches" plan, spending does not seem to be a major concern as councils will be given some £18 million a year to carry out expulsions.

Gratton Puxon, a founding member of the Gypsy Council said the plan has to do with "racism" rather than austerity.

"Gypsies are being squeezed on all sides in this wave of intolerance and racism which is unlike anything I've ever seen before," he said.

This is while government data shows that gypsy and traveler caravans on illegal sites account for a minute fraction of the 18,000 caravans in the country. The gypsy vehicles are so few, they could all be parked within a area of one square mile.

"It's seen as the last bastion of racism. It's not socially acceptable to express racism against ethnic minorities, but against gypsies and travelers it's fine," said Emma Nuttall of the support group Friends, Families and Travelers.

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