Tory crackdown on travellers

Issue 

Tory crackdown on travellers

By Catherine Brown

LONDON — The British government on August 18 announced that camping without permission is to become a criminal offence. Caravans of trespassers will be liable to confiscation.

The announcement followed the summer New Age festival season, when thousands of travellers wander from festival to festival through England and Wales, usually camping in caravans on illegal sites.

This has led to clashes with local farming communities and police. In Hampshire travellers were alleged to have caused $2.5million fire damage.

In the 1960s there were mass evictions of traditional travellers by police and bailiffs, and clashes that led to deaths. Many Roms (Gypsies) saw the attacks as a denial of their human rights reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

In the end the government enacted the 1968 Caravan Sites Act. It required local authorities to provide sites for travellers. Sir George Young, housing and planning minister, has now announced that these clauses will be repealed, leaving people who live in caravans responsible for finding their own legal sites.

The reality is that less than 40% of local councils have reached the target number of sites the act stipulates, despite 100% government funding for all capital outlay. Of the estimated 13,500 traditional caravans in England and Wales, 4500 are forced to park on illegal sites.

Bill Kerswell, vice-president of the National Gypsy Council, declared "It's a Nicolae Ceausescu

reaction. This is exactly what happened in Romania 10 years ago."

A Rom group complained last year to the Commission for Racial Equality about racist comments by a Tory MP, John Carlisle, who commented, "The time has come for the Gypsies to be banished to the wilderness they deserve". These are the backward sentiments the government is appealing to.

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