In a statement released yesterday (2 September 2011), the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), called on the UK government to suspend the planned eviction of Dale Farm residents and to ensure “a peaceful and appropriate solution, including identifying culturally appropriate accommodation, with full respect for the rights of the families involved”.
Concluding that the proposed eviction would leave residents of Dale Farm without alternative culturally adequate accommodation, the CERD also noted that the eviction would disproportionately affect women, children and older residents.
The findings echo concerns expressed by Amnesty International Welcoming the announcement, Tim Hancock, Campaigns Director at Amnesty International UK, said: "The UN Committee's statement on Dale Farm gives the lie to the government's position that this is a matter for Basildon Council and the Essex Constabulary. Central and local authorities have a duty to comply with international human rights law and standards. The planned eviction of the Irish Traveller families has now become an international issue that is putting the UK to shame.
"The UN has now given the UK the clearest of warnings that the evictions of the Travellers from Dale Farm may constitute a breach of international law on non-discrimination as the rights of the families involved are not being respected."
He continued "This is a welcome further intervention by the UN, which follows earlier warnings from UN experts that if Basildon Council were to proceed with the eviction as planned, they would violate the Irish Traveller residents’ right to adequate housing."
On 31 August, the High Court of England and Wales refused an emergency application by lawyers acting for some residents of Dale Farm who were seeking a court order to stop the eviction.
Irish Travellers are an ethnic group, recognised and protected as such in English law. Along with other Roma, Travellers and Gypsies in the UK ,they frequently face discrimination and significant obstacles in accessing housing, education and health services.
Dale Farm is located on land owned byTraveller, Roma and Gypsy families. Part of the settlement has been granted permission for residential use. However, the area from which 400 Travellers now face eviction has repeatedly been denied planning permission for residential use on the basis of local zoning restrictions.
Some of the residents of the 'unauthorised' area have lived there for over 11 years. Amnesty says residents have told them the Council has not provided a culturally adequate alternative. They expressed fears that their extended family would be destroyed as some of them would be required to live in “bricks and mortar” housing rather than caravans.
Amnesty International continues to call on the UK authorities to stop the planned eviction which would leave up to 86 families homeless or without adequate alternative housing. If an eviction is unavoidable, they have urged the council to provide the displaced residents with adequate alternative housing that will allow them to express their cultural identity.
The full UN statement can be read here: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/cerds79.htm
Amnesty International is asking for action to help stop the eviction, at www.amnesty.org.uk/dalefarm