Return to Dale Farm – ‘Two years later, we’ve got nothing’

I usually don’t discuss Travellers but the Dale Farm eviction was a mess of gargantuan scale that made no economical or logical sense. A lot of money was wasted to make the area worse, nobody can be happy with this.

 

Return to Dale Farm – ‘Two years later, we’ve got nothing’

Travellers living in Dale Farm face a bleak winter. It is just over two years since Basildon council evicted them from their land and demolished their homes, reports Sadie Robinson


Dale Farm in 2013,  two years after bailiffs and bulldozers destroyed a vibrant and  long-standing community of Travellers

Dale Farm in 2013, two years after bailiffs and bulldozers destroyed a vibrant and long-standing community of Travellers (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Travellers living in Dale Farm face a bleak winter. It is just over two years since Basildon council evicted them from their land and demolished their homes, reports Sadie Robinson

For many Christmas is a time to celebrate. But for one group of families in Essex it will be just another day spent in cold caravans on a muddy roadside surrounded by rats.

It’s just over two years since Basildon council evicted 86 families from the Dale Farm Traveller site. Many are still living on the road just yards from the plots they were forced from—because they have nowhere else to go.

And shockingly, Basildon council’s new housing report said that evicted Dale Farm Travellers will not be housed for being a burden. The council admits that this decision is “political” (see below).

Mary Sheridan is one of those evicted in October 2011. She told Socialist Worker, “I’ve lived at Dale Farm for eight years. “I was happy living here. But look at how we have to live now. We’re living in filth.”

The road is covered in mud and potholes. Women are forever pouring soapy water outside their homes in an effort to keep things clean.

Brid, who has lived at the site for around six years, is one of them. She told Socialist Worker she cleaned the roads around every two hours. “I’ve got pains in my back now after lifting the water for cleaning the road,” she said.

Before the eviction Dale Farm was divided into legal and illegal plots. Travellers living on the illegal plots owned the land but had been repeatedly refused planning permission to live there.

Dale Farm residents are forced to live on the roadside

Dale Farm residents are forced to live on the roadside (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Now those stuck on the roadside have to rely on people living in legal plots to supply them with water and electricity. Cables run over the wall from chalets on the legal site to the caravans.

Brid said her main worry was for the children. “A lot of kids are getting sick here,” she said. “There’s a lot of sickness and diarrhoea. There are no toilets. If the council brought in disposable ones we would take care of them and clean them ourselves. They should try to do something about this. We’re living like rats.”

Living on the roadside means living next to a regular flow of traffic. “It’s worse when the snow and ice comes,” said Brid. “You’re scared that the cars will skid and come right into the caravan.”

The Environment Agency has confirmed that there is asbestos at Dale Farm. And the Red Cross reported concerns about “raw sewage” and the lack of toilets.

Martin O’Leary is another Traveller who was evicted from the site. He told Socialist Worker that the area he used to live on “is now a pothole, a swimming pool for rats”.

“You can hear them at night,” added John Fox, “If you throw a piece of food outside at night you can hear them rush for it.”

Basildon council leader Tony Ball led the eviction—at a cost of over £7 million. He then claimed the council would offer “housing assistance” to those made homeless. But as Mary put it, “Two years later, we’ve got nothing.”

Paddy said the treatment of Travellers have showed that Ball is “prejudiced”.

“Ball should’ve spent the money he spent evicting us on a new site,” said Paddy. “We would’ve loved to have moved out if there was a new site to go to. But he’s gone home to his big house and his big TV. Look how we’re living. We’re human beings. But they’re treating us like animals.”

Travellers at Dale Farm are used to racist scapegoating. As Martin put it, “This area has one of the lowest crime rates in Basildon. But whenever there’s a crime, they always blame the gypsies.”

Basildon council said it evicted Travellers from Dale Farm because it wanted to “return” the land to greenbelt. But before Travellers bought the land, it was a scrap yard.

And the former site was dug up by bulldozers during the eviction. Deep trenches that stop vehicles returning to the site have mixed up tarmac, soil and concrete.

Piles of bricks and wood litter the site with old furniture, children’s toys, a mattress, carpets and bags of sand. People have been forced to use the land as a toilet in the absence of anything else.

“We’re still not back to ourselves,” said Margaret Gammell. “It’s terrible stress.”

“It’s not fair,” added John. “We never stole the land—we bought it. All that money they spent on the eviction and we’re still here. But now we’re living in a health hazard.”

Some people ask why the Travellers don’t travel and go elsewhere. But changes in the law have made it harder for Travellers to move around. There are fewer legal sites for them to go to.

Some of those living at Dale Farm, such as Brid, ended up there after being evicted from other sites.And some Travellers wanted a permanent address to make it easier to access doctors and for children to go to school.

“If we go somewhere else,” said John, “the police just say it’s illegal to be there and move you on.”

For all the problems, Travellers have fought to make a home on the roadside. Many have doormats and pot plants outside their caravan doors. Washing hangs out to dry on a metal fence that keeps Travellers out of an adjacent field.

Festive decorations adorn the caravans and signs in the windows read, “Merry Christmas”. But many feel far from festive.

“We’re living like we were 40 years ago,” said Pat. “If we lived in a third world country we’d be treated better than this.

“To be treated like this is a joke.”


Building on greenbelt

Basildon council plans to build thousands of houses on nearly 500 hectares of greenbelt land—cutting 7 percent of its greenbelt. Councillors were set to discuss the plans at a meeting on Thursday of next week and a public consultation is set for the New Year.

The plan for 12,000 new homes would allow around 9,100 to be built on greenbelt land. Tory council leader Tony Ball claimed the plan to build on greenbelt was actually aimed at protecting it.

“Allocating a limited release of greenbelt protects the rest of it even more, without allocation the greenbelt is open season for developers,” he said.


‘It’s political’

There will be no provision for Travellers evicted from Dale Farm for “political reasons”, say Basildon council. The council’s new housing plan includes provision for 121 Traveller pitches over the next 20 years.

This is based on an assessment of Traveller needs in the borough—excluding those evicted from Dale Farm.

If they were included in the provision, the council would need to provide an extra 155 pitches. Tory council leader Tony Ball said, “We are not going to make provision for those formally moved from Dale Farm.”

When asked for the reason behind this, the council’s press office told Socialist Worker, “That is a political decision”.

The council produced a report on its housing plan this month.

It said, “Whilst the advice in ‘Planning Policy for Traveller Sites’ is that local authorities should plan for all those families wishing to reside in their areas, the Council considers that having to plan for 155 pitches as well as the 121 would place an unrealistic burden on the Council.

“Basildon has always argued that the provision of traveller sites is a regional and national issue and not one that should automatically be resolved by those authorities where the families happen to arrive and settle.”

If the council gets away with its plan, other councils can argue that it is too much of a “burden” to provide for Travellers.

It risks leaving more Travellers stranded on the road—where they will be moved on because they are living “illegally”.

Read on original site

 

Pat’s comment at the end amused me, no Pat if you lived in a third world country (so one not allied to America or the USSR???) you wouldn’t be treated any better… But then again you’re not Roma so maybe… but I highly doubt it.

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Keep your head down

A couple of days ago I posted a status on Facebook™ about a women at my workplace who has been being sexually harassment and was on one occasional sexually assaulted physically by a superior within the company. I posted this primarily because I believe that it is pretty grime that she almost did not report it because she was worried about potential backlash that might, in her opinion, put her job at risk. It came to the point that she no longer felt entirely safe, let alone comfortable.

Keep your head down

Has her job been put at risk? I highly doubt it but still remains to be seen. The important thing is she felt that it might jeopardise her position within the company because she was  scared how her colleagues and managers might react and most importantly how the offender might react. This fear, founded in reality or not, is very real and it prevents people like this lady coming forward and standing up for themselves.

My second motivation for posting my little update, and in some ways the most important reason, was because I have friends and acquaintances who believe that sexual harassment within the work place is not an issue because it is not an everyday occurrence. I believe they are wrong, it can be an everyday occurrence, some people will experience it multiple time in their life and some people will never come across it at all.

Now moving onto my point, after posting this I was sent the most well meaning message from a work colleague essentially telling me to mind my own business because it does not directly impact me and, I quote, I should ‘keep my head down’.

Fair, fair spreading rumour around the office is not the wisest or nicest of ideas, and as they say ” You stick your neck out, you are asking to lose your head”.

I’m not entirely sure I agree, in fact I’m not entirely sure I agree with the principle at all. I believe discussing these issues is highly important or at the very least should not be taboo, and to back up dehumanised and conservative statistics with personal experience, not that antidote cannot be faulty or just down right dangerous but it lends a face to something that not everyone experiences and could be excused for not considering relevant to their lives.

I have been sexually assaulted on multiple occasions to varying degrees, and it is very difficult to know what to do and how to react. A simple part of you just wants to smack the offender in the face and teach him a lesson but what lesson will be learnt. Violence is not the simple answer because it can so easily be used again you. Instead of anger I feel fear, embarrassment and shame. As the ‘victim’ this is not acceptable. We have every right to stand up for ourselves but it is sometimes difficult to know how and it is not guaranteed that we will be supported.

As my second point on the original post goes on to discuss but skims around, even though she was being supported and taken seriously, her manager (who was being less than subtle shouter her complaint across the break room within ear shot of multiple colleagues) seemed more interesting in reassuring himself that, for her sake he hadn’t been making her feel uncomfortable with his own ‘banter’ but ultimately that he was a good person. Understandable perhaps but she might have preferred not to have him telling her so many times about how much of a ‘great guy’ the man who assaulted her is. I think we all agree that he isn’t a Disney villain (or Walt Disney himself) but in this instance as we are focusing on his treatment of her , how amusing he is down the pub with the lads might not be entirely relevant.

The stories of how much of a laugh he is, even though the manager is trying to be supportive, is just going someway to reaffirm the fear of not only hierarchical bureaucratic position within the company but also social position within the working entity as a society or social group.

This is not a situation I am going to get any further involved in, she wants to try to keep it quiet amongst per colleagues so I doubt she would appreciate me taking a front row seat in her personal battle I stand by believing it is very important not to pretend that such issues do not exist and are not relevant to the lives of the majority of people regardless of whether or not they have first hand experience.  Every man has a women in their lives: mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, every women has the same. That’s why I think we owe it to yourself and the people we love not to play pretend or feels as if there is nothing we can do about it, we can do a lot by simple talking.

Like in the plot of every film or video game, surely these characters would get more stuff done if they simple talk to each other.

The Blame Game: The Choice of Words in the Media Depiction of Roma

ROMEDIA FOUNDATION

In a world that increasingly sees the use of  insensitive and racially charged terms as being unacceptable in public speech, the manner in which the media covers issues regarding Roma still trails behind all across Europe, with expressions ranging from the patronizing to the down-right offensive still being the norm in the media vernacular. Rather than being just an issue of journalistic ethics, some of these ill-conceived choices of words have very real consequences on the way the Roma are perceived and treated.

In recent years, the mainstream media’s level of outright hate-speech against minorities has somewhat subsided, while still, predictably, thriving in nationalist publications and independent blogs. While this new-found political correctness should definitely be applauded, it seems to have skipped the Roma, who are still treated in a horrendous manner by virtually any news story.  Even apparently benign use of language should also be more deeply scrutinized, being…

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Quick Response: “Gypsy” School in UK?

A new education centre has opened in Birmingham for children who do not have a school place or have been excluded from mainstream school.

Baverstock in the City targets Gypsy and traveller children, those for whom English is not their first language and pupils with challenging behaviour.

It is a Balsall Heath branch of The Baverstock Academy.

An application to turn it into a free school has been prepared, which would give it a capacity of 1,000 students.

‘No place for them’

Thomas Marshall, head teacher of The Baverstock Academy, said: “There are close to 900 Gypsy Romany traveller children without a school place at the moment.

“The number of students with English as a second language is growing and growing across the city as people move into Birmingham and they don’t have school places because they tend to move into the centre of the city where there aren’t enough secondary schools.”

He said his experience with teaching excluded students was developed at the academy which regularly made eight or nine permanent exclusions each year and had a very high number of fixed-term exclusions when he took over in September 2010.

“When they enjoy education they want to take part even further and achieve goals… The children want to be educated and there was no place for them,” he added.

‘Get on without bullying’

Damien Le Bas, editor of the Travellers’ Times, said Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers report problems with school that includes bullying and teachers that misunderstand their ethnicity.

He said: “People forget that in the 1960s lots of schools wouldn’t accept traveller children so there is an historic cultural problem and it’s no surprise we [Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers] have the worst educational attainment in the country over all indicators.”

He said traveller children can have an expectation they will take part in a family business, sometimes instead of school, from a young age.

“I welcome this focus on traveller education, though am not sure about separating students,” he added.

“I benefitted enormously through being in a mixed school with people with high expectations, but I know some who wish they’d been able to be in a school just with travellers so they could get on without the bullying and other problems they faced.”

About 30 students will be inducted to the centre at the Friends Institute on Moseley Road later and a further 50 are expected to start this academic year. – BBC NEWS

 

The concept is really big in Europe and they’re really disgusting places to be, they’re basically sanatoriums, and forced enrolment has nothing to do with performance it’s based purely on ethnicity, topped up with ‘excluded pupils and others without a school place’. I’m sure nothing like that would happen here…
But you never know it might be a good thing but to group a group of ethnicities together with excluded pupils (side note: then shame the excluded pupils by calling it a “Gypsy” school, they’re not really going to like that) is pretty damning, you haven’t even arrived yet and you’re a ‘trouble maker’. A ‘drop in centre’ style thing would be pretty useful, not really viable but I would see people suggesting it, but it occurs to me that if you are already settled in Birmingham (or wherever), then you’re settled enough to apply for a ‘normal’ school place. But as Damien says, to have somewhere you can just ‘get on with it’ would be a welcome thing, assuming of course the ‘trouble’ children don’t hold them back, but continuing to segregate people isn’t going to promote inclusion, if we can’t get children of different cultures to play together how are we to expect them to play nicely as adults – both sides need to learn that the other isn’t “dirty, violent or stupid”. Settled people have jut as much of an image problem in Travelling communities as Travellers have in settled communities.
The idea of including speaks of foreign languages (umm good luck with that because I doubt many Europeans will be pleased about sending their children to the ‘”Gypsy” school’. Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Czech, good luck with that) is an interesting one, it would be interesting to see if the demand is high enough to bring in teachers that speak, at least a passing level, of Romani to accommodate for the increasing number of Roma refugees and immigrants. Most English Romany now use English as their first language (as do the Irish), the old chib is broken, but there are plenty of Roma children that require the additional support (but once again they’re from, or have family in, these countries with specialist Roma schools…).
It would be interesting, if the government is going to open a “Gypsy” school to open a “Gypsy” school, not just one for troubled children but an actual good quality school comparable to that of Jewish schools, providing high quality education whilst promoting cultural values (but whose culture? there isn’t but one), and some teachers who are themselves Romani and Pavee/Irish Travellers. Make it a place for, not a place to put. It’s never going to happen but equally why not? Forced inclusion doesn’t work, forced exclusion doesn’t work, to move forward we have to work with people.

Young Roma Gain New Perspective Far From Home, in New Zealand with the Māori

Roma in Central and Eastern Europe are in a unique situation compared to other ethnic groups—they are not indigenous to the continent, nor do they have a homeland like national minorities. However, the socioeconomic disadvantages and discrimination that they frequently face parallel those of other populations throughout the globe, whether they are indigenous peoples, refugees, migrants, or other groups.

Two young Roma leaders, Erika Adamaova from Slovakia and Florin Nasture from Romania, had the unique opportunity in April and May to travel halfway around the world to New Zealand to participate in a youth leadership Study Session on “Democracy in the Pacific.” The program introduced them to some of the parallels and contrasts between Roma and New Zealand’s indigenous Māori population and sparked ideas for new approaches to Roma development programs.

The program was organized by the Pacific Centre for Participatory Democracy—a youth-led NGO based in Gisborne, on the east side of New Zealand’s North Island—and was funded by the New Zealand government, including the Ministry of Māori Development and NZAID. The World Bank Institute also provided support.

The session involved 28 young leaders from New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific Islands, and Indonesia. The organizers were interested in involving Roma to include a diverse set of perspectives. The program aimed to support an inter-cultural and inter-generational dialogue and to identify strategies for sustainable and innovative community development initiatives. During their visit, Erika and Florin also had the opportunity to visit schools, government agencies, and Māori organizations.

Who are the Māori?
New Zealand Out at Pasture
Roma and Māori are vastly different ethnic groups, each with their own unique and rich histories and cultures. Māori are an indigenous minority of approximately 620,000 based largely in New Zealand, with small diaspora populations in Australia and other countries. Roma are an ethnic minority spread across the world, but concentrated in Europe, where an estimated 9 to 12 million live. Although Roma originally migrated into Europe from India, they do not have territorial claims there.

There are also similarities. Both Roma and Māori societies are historically based on oral traditions, which made codifying language and creating a written historical record particularly important. Both groups are striking in their internal diversity.

A More Traditional International Conference

The study session incorporated and exposed the participants to Māori culture and traditions. It was held on a marae, the traditional Māori meeting house, which is central to every aspect of Māori life, including weddings and funerals, and serves as the center of the community. Participants were welcomed through Māori ceremony, including the Māori language and music.

“Being on the marae, I finally understood why workshops, conferences and study sessions organized for Roma activists do not achieve their intended impact and effect,” said Erika. “Organizing such events in a four-star hotel is comfortable and pleasant, but to stay in direct interaction with the community and culture motivates and helps the participants to better understand the way of living, thinking and cultural values…The whole Study Session was held in the spirit of Māori culture and traditions.”

Learning from Each Other

New Zealand Fun ActivitiesRoma attendees compared and contrasted their status in Central and Eastern Europe with that of Māori in New Zealand. The Treaty of Waitangi sets the framework for relations between Māori and the Government, and has influenced the status of Māori in New Zealand. The Treaty was signed in 1840 between representatives of the British government and chiefs of iwi (Māori tribal groups) from across New Zealand. While there is ongoing debate about the meaning of the Treaty, it has been an important basis for recognizing the rights of Māori in New Zealand. In recent years, the Waitangi Tribunal has been hearing claims by Māori against the Crown of breaches of the Treaty. The Government has signed settlements with about 12 iwi.

Increased use of the Māori language has been part of a Māori cultural renaissance in New Zealand. Māori is an official language alongside English. A Māori Language Strategy supports the incorporation of the language across society, including within public services, media, and the arts. Keeping alive the Māori language is seen as critical in sustaining a strong and proud cultural identity. The Roma participants were impressed by the emphasis on language use. Florin noted, “The way to preserve culture is by introducing the Roma language into the schools were Roma children are studying.”

Roma and Māori women face similar challenges. “Talking to Māori women, I realized that the privileged status of men over women is not a part of Māori culture,” said Erika. “An effective approach to promote educational attainment among young Roma mothers would be to implement policies that will encourage young Roma mothers to stay in school.”

Contributing to the lack of education among Roma in Central and Eastern Europe iNew Zealand Florin and Erikas the unofficial policy in many countries of enrolling Roma children into special schools intended for the mentally and physically disabled. Many of these children eventually drop out, as they have no prospect of attending secondary school or university.

New Zealand, however, has effectively banned special schools, something that some CEE governments still resist. However, many Māori parents—and a small but growing number of non-Māori parents—choose to send their children to bilingual or immersion schools that expose students to Māori language and culture.

A Renewed Sense of Identity

The Roma participants returned home having learned important lessons about fostering cultural identity, improving living standards, and increasing social inclusion. “Many Roma feel there is a gap between the community as a whole and its leaders and elites,” pointed out Florin. “Community participation is key to closing this gap, and it will in turn strengthen Roma identity and a feeling of belonging.”

Florin also emphasized that the whole approach to Roma integration should be turned on its head. “In our region, we take a negative perspective, focusing on the disparity between the Roma and the majority, and creating the appearance of a helpless Roma population.” Māori, on the other hand, are more positive. “They build on existing successes to channel their potential. Like them, Roma should not be people with problems who create problems; we should have the power to overcome our obstacles

Whilst there aren’t any Romany gypsies in New Zealand… You mean there aren’t many right? Yes you’re right, my mistakes: Whilst there aren’t many Romany gypsies in New Zealand…

Whilst doing my research yesterday on Romani in New Zealand I came across an article on the ‘Original Gypsy Fair’ discussing how despite there not being any Romany in the NZ a small number of Kiwis have adopted an itinerant lifestyle (going as far as to call themselves Gypsies).

This statement, that there aren’t any Romani make me feel uncomfortable because there are Romani there, between 120,000 and 300,000. Romany from the UK, Roma from Europe, Romani on gap years… Despite there not being a visible community it’s ridiculous to claim that there are aren’t any at all, like saying that there are no Indians, or Jews. Sure they’re not going around advertising themselves but they’re still there.

Anyway, the point of my post. I sent a quick message to the site explaining that a mistake had been made, and that claiming that there aren’t any is an insult to their Romani Kiwi population and mades me, a potential visitor, feel uncomfortable with visiting a country that wants to hide their Romani population and play pretend (I don’t think it was that at all, I just think that they literally did not know. Probably have no idea that there is more to being Romani than living in a caravan). I received a reply later that day apologising and the post in question has been change from ‘Whilst there aren’t any’ to ‘Whilst there aren’t many’. So a big thank you to Tourism.net.nz and to the lovely man who set things straight. Thank you for being understanding!

Here is the article in question! http://www.tourism.net.nz/featured-events/2011/new-zealand-gypsy-travellers-fairs.html

Romani in New Zealand

Recently I am becoming very interested once again in the situation of Romani people in New Zealand. Despite popular sources [citation needed] claiming that there are no real Romani ‘Gypsies’ in the NZ there is believed to be between 1,200 and 3000 with the most popular sub-group being Romanichal emigrants from the UK and more recently European Roma refugees (vitsas unknown?).

In the UK everyone *feels* like they know what a Gypsy is, it’s also not that uncommon for people to be able to tell the difference between an Irish Traveller and a Romany Gypsy even in-spite of MBFGW’s efforts to cause confusion. But from what I can tell from Google the term Gypsy and Gypsy Travellers in NZ has become incorrectly re-appropriated to mean ‘any old hippy in a truck’. The lifestyle of these housetruckers is indeed interesting, as someone who has spent a great deal of time with New Age Travellers (more the ones who want appropriate a stylised Romani lifestyle than the more new age hippy) I am perfectly comfortable around them but they’re not ‘quite right’. I am painfully aware that they’re not kin. It’s strange really, I read a lot of commentary from American bloggers who discuss the appropriation of the term gypsy to mean ‘free spirited hipster girl’ but as someone who lives in a country with a visible population it is sometimes difficult to truly appreciate the feeling of being erased. Yet now I am trying to research the situation in NZ I feel like I am just hitting my head against a brick wall, you’re not really Romani are you and, infact, are you even pretending to be?

Vintage Housetrucker house.

As part of my research a came across an annual ‘Gypsy Fair’ in Invercargill, I have been informed that it’s a traditional fair but from it’s facebook page all I see is hippies in trucks so I’m a little unsure. I think when they expect my joining request I might just go in guns blazing and ask. I’m not expecting an open harmed welcome, please join our family this instance, but it would be nice to know more. Trying to engage in Romani would probably be the politest way to go about asking but it’s not really a fair indicator, I’m not a natural speaker they’re probably not natural speakers, if they are natural speakers well then that puts me at a disadvantage, making me out as the outsider, silly old romanichal me!

And before I forget here‘s an article about a Romany family. The only true reference I could find.