Today, the inhabitants of the Dale Farm traveler’s halting site in Essex, UK, will be evicted. This is an extremely controversial move by the government, and one that has even been discussed and commented on by the UN. I have strong opinions on travelers’ rights, but I will try to remain as impartial as possible while examining the situation.
There are two parts to the site, a smaller area that they own and had planning permission to live on. The other, larger part they own, but have never had planning permission on. While they have been there for a long time, Basildon Council has decided to evict them on the grounds that their land is actually part of Greenbelt land, and that they have far exceeded the initial planning permission that was originally granted.
I would like to say that there seems to be no reason why the Council has left this eviction for so long, as the number of travelers has been steadily increasing for a long time. It seems wrong to do it now, when there are so many gathered there and have become so established, and it must be traumatic having to move at an arbitrary date, with the possibility of not finding anywhere else to go, especially with children.
However, I would like to state some inconsistencies in their argument for staying there. Firstly, the use of the term traveler is technically wrong, as many of them have been there for years; this is not travelling. Also, they claim that it is their way of life, and cultural right to live as they do. True, they are of strongly Irish descent, but no other minority in the country has a right to avoid planning permission, which is essentially what this is about (rather than racial discrimination; I’m sure councils would evict people of English descent who did the same). While I could accept minor allowances on sites of little importance, we live in a densely populated country for the most part, and so small infringements can cause problems larger than the problem would first suggest.
I will not go any further on this, as I recognise my information may not be correct, and I apologise for any offence caused by my opinions; but let me say this. The description of the eviction as ethnic cleansing is wrong. Here is a definition of ethnic cleansing: “a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas”. It seems a little extreme to use the same word you would use to describe the holocaust to describe a forced eviction.