gypsy minority, gypsies in Europe, gypsies in great Britain
Associated Press
Gypsies set up camp next to Minister's home.

British Homeowners Must Sell Land for Gypsy Campsites

November 19, 2008 11:30 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
Angry property owners in Britain may be forced to sell their land for gypsy sites; gypsy advocates say they have been mistreated too long. 

Britain Makes Room

In Great Britain, where roving groups of gypsies or “travelers” have long been marginalized, homeowners may soon be forced to sell portions of their land to make room for gypsy settlements.

In a British government “land grab,” aimed at establishing permanent homes for 25,000 gypsies, homeowners’ gardens and fields could be particularly vulnerable. Government ministers claim that the plan will save money by cutting the amount spent on trying to evict gypsies and travelers from illegal sites.

According to U.K. newspaper the Daily Express, documents pertaining to Epping Forest Council in Essex “say that if residents refuse to sell their land, it would be compulsorily purchased under Government powers.” Other councils are expected to follow suit.

In July, The Independent reported there were 300,000 gypsies in the U.K. At that time, with discrimination reaching a head, leaders of gypsy and traveler organizations had united in a coalition fighting against discrimination, a huge undertaking considering recent studies showing that gypsies have experienced “more racism than any other group in the UK.”
Richard Sheridan, president of the Gypsy Council, was quoted in The Independent as saying, "Travelling people are travelling people, no matter what their ethnicity – we are all marginalised and tarred with the same brush.”

Opinion and Analysis: Nowhere to turn

In an April 2008 editorial for The Guardian, Libby Brooks recounts how Britain’s gypsies have been “aggressively disenfranchised.” The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 resulted in closures of illegal settlements, forcing many gypsies to move into homes in neighborhoods where they’ve been utterly marginalized. The act also “repealed local authorities’ duty to provide areas to pitch,” leaving councils with “no impetus to build new sites” and “free to close down existing ones.” As a result, according to Brooks, there are approximately 25,000 gypsies with no legal place to go.

Background: Traveler rights

The Human Rights Act “says everybody has the same rights which should not be unduly infringed by government or other public bodies,” but travelers argue that “their right to family life” is jeopardized when officials unfairly assess their housing cases, without “taking into account the unique situation of their way of life,” according to the BBC.

The Traveller Law Reform Project Web site outlines important issues facing gypsy and traveler families, who “were told that a 'level playing field' would exist” following the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994. Families were encouraged to purchase their own land, but more than 90 percent of applications were refused.

Prior to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, the Caravan Sites’ Act of 1968 required local authorities to provide living space for gypsies and travelers, but this act did not have much impact until 1980 due to government loopholes. 

Related Link: The Roma


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