Travelers escape eviction from illegal settlement in Britain | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 19.09.2011
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Travelers escape eviction from illegal settlement in Britain

Hundreds of Travelers living on an illegal site in Britain have temporarily avoided eviction after a last-minute court injunction. The delay came after bailiffs were met with fierce resistance from protesters.

Travelers and residents of the Dale Farm settlement stand on a tower of scaffolding

Protesters were urged to stopped obstructing the eviction

Residents battling eviction from Britain's largest Traveler settlement won a last-minute temporary legal reprieve on Monday halting attempts to clear the site.

Britain's High Court issued an injunction stopping the local authority from clearing the Dale Farm site until a further hearing on Friday.

The ruling came just hours after bailiffs surrounded the camp near Basildon in southeast England.

Using a loud speaker one bailiff urged the Travelers and protesters to leave, warning that the hastily erected barricades had the potential to "put people's lives in danger."

The community of Irish Travelers in Britain is a traditionally nomadic group culturally similar to, but ethnically distinct from, Gypsy or Roma people.

Resident resistance

Residents and their supporters refused to dismantle barricades while bailiffs gathered nearby to evict them. As they entered the site they were greeted with shouts and chants of "here they come" and "shame on you."

Although many of the families from the Traveler community had already abandoned the site, dozens of supporters flocked to the community to resist the clearance.

A tower of scaffolding poles designed to obstruct the eviction was erected at the site while protesters chained themselves to cars and concrete-filled barrels.

One sign next to a chained woman read: "Danger of death: behind this gate a woman is attached by her neck. If you attempt to open this gate you will kill her."

Other banners around the site said "No Ethnic Cleansing", "Save Us" and "Justice" as protesters warned they would have to be forcibly removed.

Violation of human rights

An activist chained to a barricade

Activists have taken drastic measures to support the settlements 400 residents

The local council announced the eviction would begin on Monday after a ten-year legal battle.

Last month the council won the right to evict the estimated 400 Travelers at Britain's High Court. Although the Travelers own much of the land at the site, it was ruled they had broken the law by building on it without permission.

Until recently caravans and temporary chalet-type houses on 51 unauthorized plots were home to almost 90 families.

The Travelers had previously called for the eviction to be delayed, claiming that there are unoccupied legal sites available for them to move to.

Some also accused the council and courts of prejudice against a vulnerable group and breaching their human rights.

Kathleen McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the Dale Farm Traveler community told BBC radio the eviction was "destroying the lives of young little children and really sick and old people."

"I would like you to apologize before you destroy our lives and put us out on the street," she urged the council. "We want to keep our culture. Everyone else is allowed to keep their culture."

High-profile figures including Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave and the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged authorities to find a peaceful solution.

But Basildon council declined a request for a last-minute meeting with Travelers, saying its "only purpose" was to delay a clearance operation.

Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (AP, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner

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