UK: Roma and Travellers failed by the state

Just a year after the United Kingdom was criticised by the United Nations Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights over its failure to provide adequate facilities for members of the Travelling Community issues (in Scotland and Wales) have highlighted that Travellers still face major discriminatory problems.

At its 42nd Session on the 12th – 16th of May 2009 the UNCESCR said:

“The Committee is concerned about the shortage of adequate stopping sites for Roma/Gypsies and Irish Travellers, and reports concerning evictions of groups of Roma from their sites due to the compulsory purchase order of those sites for the organization of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. It is also concerned about the discriminatory effect of the Unauthorised Encampments (Northern Ireland) Order 2005, which makes Roma/Gypsies and Irish Travellers liable to be evicted from their homes, to have their homes destroyed and then to be imprisoned and/or fined. (art. 11)

“The Committee recommends that the State party ensure the provision of
sufficient, adequate and secure stopping sites for Roma/Gypsies and IrishTravellers. It also recommends that the State party, in the organization of mega-events, ensure the protection of the most disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, which may be disproportionately affected by such events, in line with the Committee’s general comment no. 7 (1997) on the right to adequate housing: forced evictions. It also encourages the State party to review the provisions of the Unauthorised Encampments(Northern Ireland) Order 2005 and to provide for suitable accommodation
arrangements for Roma/Gypsies and Irish Travellers.”

In Scotland attempts are being made to evict Irish Travellers from a Caravan Park near Moray. According to newspaper reports local authorities, police and the military have had an involvement in this situation. The alleged involvement of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is a curious development, apparently prompted by the fact that the land on which the Caravan park is sited is leased from the MOD.

Meanwhile, in Wales Powys Council have rejected plans for a permanent site for Gypsies. The Council’s planning committee voted against a proposal to transform farmland at Llanfilo, near Brecon, into a camp for a family of Romany gypsies. It is the second occasion on which the proposal has been rejected.

The failure of the UK government and local authorities to provide adequate numbers of permanent sites for the Roma/Travelling community has been repeatedly criticised by International Rights bodies and invariably leads to much of the friction and intolerance demonstrated by some sections of the population towards the Roma.

It is now almost twenty years since the Celtic League report `Human Rights on the Celtic Fringe’ highlighted this problem. Will it be another twenty years before this issue is adequately addressed.

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