Dale Farm: UN calls for Essex eviction to be suspended

A United Nations committee is calling on the government to suspend the planned eviction of travellers from the UK's largest illegal site.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said evicting 400 people from Dale Farm, Essex, would disproportionately affect family life.

The government said Basildon Council was within its rights to evict the travellers from the site.

Those living there have denied being infiltrated by violent anarchists.

In a statement, the UN committee said the evictions would "disproportionately affect the lives of the Gypsy and traveller families, particularly women, children and older people".

'Discrimination and hostility'

It said the evictions would create hardship, and called on the government to suspend them "until culturally appropriate accommodation is identified and provided".

The statement added: "The committee urges the state party to find a peaceful and appropriate solution which fully respects the rights of the families involved.

"Travellers and Gypsies already face considerable discrimination and hostility in wider society and the committee is deeply concerned that this could be worsened by actions taken by authorities in the current situation and by some media reporting on the issues."

In response, the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "The British courts have found that the developments at Dale Farm are in breach of planning law and Basildon District Council is within its rights to evict travellers from the site.

"It has taken 10 years of failed negotiations and legal process to reach this point, and the unprecedented level of unauthorised development on greenbelt land has severely damaged community relations."

A press conference has been held at Dale Farm, following reports that up to 2,000 protesters were planning to descend on the site to clash with bailiffs and police.

The travellers and their supporters denied claims they had been infiltrated by trouble-makers and said they were committed to non-violent resistance.

Kathleen McCarthy, a traveller and Dale Farm resident, said: "Anybody who is welcomed on this site will resist in a peaceful way.

"These supporters are welcome here and we remain determined to stay.

"We will resist the bailiffs and build barricades but none of us have weapons or anything like that."

Supporters of the travellers have established Camp Constant, a protest camp next to the illegal site.

Image caption Supporters were greeted as they arrived and given welcome packs

Mrs McCarthy said: "There's been rumours going round that they have come in and taken over our camp and that's not the real story.

"We invited these people here and they are showing us great respect and great support."

One supporter, who gave her name only as Marina, said specialists in peaceful resistance were training travellers how to resist bailiffs in a non-violent way.

She said: "We will put up barriers and occupy space as an obstruction but we do not intend to resort to violence."

The travellers, who failed in a High Court bid to stop the eviction on Wednesday, have vowed to fight any eviction plans.

They are calling for a meeting with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

On Thursday, Basildon Council issued a final plea for them to leave the site peacefully.

Traveller families began to set up pitches illegally on greenbelt land at Dale Farm in 2001.

An estimated 400 people on 80 different pitches face losing their homes.

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