Eviction looming: Irish Travellers at Dale Farm seek new homes at 11th hour
IRISH Travellers facing the clearance of the UK's largest illegal site say they are enduring a last-minute struggle to find somewhere to go.
With less than 24 hours before Basildon Council-employed bailiffs are due to begin the eviction of about 80 families living on Dale Farm, Essex, residents voiced a final plea for an alternative site.
The eviction follows a decade-long row over 51 unauthorised plots. Half of the site, which has planning consent, will remain.
Council leader Tony Ball has insisted the majority of the public support the operation.
He said: "I have received thousands of emails and letters and the vast majority say we are doing the right thing in enforcing the law.
"We will continue to work with the Dale Farm residents to find them suitable accommodation but we have been left with no option but to go ahead."
Many residents have temporarily moved caravans on to the neighbouring legal site.
Kathryn Flynn, a mother-of-three and a resident at Dale Farm for 10 years, said: "I'm moving on to my uncle's yard on the other side for tonight because I don't want my children to go through this.
"I'm scared of what the bailiffs will do. They smash up our trailers - our homes. I don't want my children to be in danger, so we're moving them.
"But we've got nowhere to go after Monday. We don't know what's going to happen to us.
"Our children went to school for the last day on Friday. I don't know what to tell them about tomorrow."
Supporters have gathered on the site and promise peaceful resistance. One supporter, who gives her name only as Marina, said there had been an influx in recent days.
She added: "We are spending the day making sure everyone is organised and knows their role and that everybody knows their legal rights."
John McCarthy, who has also lived on the site for 10 years, said: "We're treated worse than any other community. They think it's okay to break up a whole community and to throw us all on the roadside."
There was a low profile police presence outside the site today as bailiffs continued preparations on a field next door.
Piles of bricks, makeshift walls and barricades wrapped in barbed wire have been placed as obstructions.
Resident Mary McCarthy, 55, said mothers living on the site would gather at the main gate at 6pm to make a final plea to the council.
She said: "We will beg with the council and the Government to allow us to stay because we have nowhere to go.
"All parts of society except for travellers have their rights protected."
Supporters have begun building a wall across a gateway where bailiffs plan to enter.
Mrs McCarthy said: "This is a legal wall on private land and they are not allowed to knock it down. We will do everything we legally and peacefully can to resist the eviction."