Eviction Day: Travellers in stand-off at Dale Farm
MOVES to evict scores of families from the UK's biggest illegal travellers' site were delayed today as council officials held talks with the mainly Irish residents.
An estimated 200 Irish Travellers and their supporters barricaded themselves inside Dale Farm in Basildon, Essex, as bailiffs prepared to clear the former scrapyard.
The travellers recently lost a decade-long legal fight over unauthorised development on 51 plots on half of the six-acre site.
Protesters put up reinforced barricades and built a new wall, and some even chained themselves to obstacles in an attempt to keep the teams of bailiffs out using "peaceful resistance".
The eviction operation was temporarily put on hold this morning while Basildon Council officers met residents.
A spokesman for the local authority said: "The traveller representatives have requested a meeting with the council to discuss the site clearance and we hope that we will be able to encourage them to remove the barricades that are currently blocking emergency access to and from the site.
"We are committed to taking the time to get things right and ensure that the site clearance is carried out in a safe and lawful way."
Meanwhile, Europe’s human rights watchdog today called for the legalisation of long-established traveller sites - even if they breach local planning laws.
Guidelines published in Strasbourg as bailiffs were due to clear the Dale Farm Irish travellers' site in Essex, urged countries signed up to the European Human Rights Convention - including the UK - to waive the rules "once the situation has been tolerated for a long period of time by the public authorities".
Today's report, from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), includes a raft of measures it says should be taken to tackle what it called a "rising tide of anti-Gypsyism and discrimination against Roma".
They include provision of "decent", non-segregated housing for Roma families and safeguards against eviction from their homes without notice or without the opportunity of being rehoused.
The report asks governments to "combat prejudice and stereotypes concerning Roma and travellers in respect of access to housing", and to "ensure that appropriate encampment areas, whether for permanent occupation or transit, are available to travellers in sufficient numbers on suitable and duly serviced sites."
ECRI, an independent monitoring body advising the 47 member states of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, has regularly issued reports recommending action to combat prejudice, and "social exclusion" suffered by Roma communities