Eviction countdown: Irish Travellers at Dale Farm illegal site vow to stay
IRISH Travellers living on the UK's largest unauthorised site have said: "We're staying put," as they prepare for bailiffs to move in to clear the site.
Small numbers have begun leaving Dale Farm, near Basildon, ahead of the start of the clearance operation on Monday.
Basildon Council leader Tony Ball said the authority believed 12 or 13 families had left the site voluntary this week.
Up to 400 people are thought to live on the 51 unauthorised plots and travellers insist many will remain.
One chalet and eight caravans have been seen leaving and another chalet was being removed this afternoon. Travellers say the chalets are being sold to buy caravans.
Richard Sheridan, chairman of the Dale Farm Housing Association, said: "Most of the families are determined to stay - they have nowhere else to go."
One resident, Elbi, 28, said her three-year-old nephew had been having nightmares about the eviction.
She said: "We are going to be homeless. We have nowhere to go, no land, nothing.
"The children understand what is happening and they are all terrified and are waking up in the night thinking a bailiff is about to arrive.
"But we have no choice but to stay. This is our home and, if we are evicted on Monday, I don't know where we'll go."
One supporter, who gave her name only as Marina, said: "We are trying to move children and vulnerable people off the site but there is only so much we can do when people have nowhere to go.
"I spoke to one elderly woman last night who does not have a roadworthy caravan and she was in tears worrying about the future."
Mr Ball insisted that provision would be made for those left homeless. He said: "Some have already been offered accommodation and those who are removed from the site on Monday will be treated as emergency homeless cases."