Hundreds of travellers face eviction from a site in Essex after the Home Office said it would cough up half the cash for a costly police operation.
Local councillors on Basildon District Council voted in April to evict 96 families from the Dale Farm site near Crays Hill, Basildon.
Essex Police estimated the cost of policing the eviction — not the actual operation itself — would be £9.2 million. Previously Basildon Council couldn’t afford that figure, so the travellers stayed in their homes, on their own land.
Now the government has come to the rescue of its Tory friends in Essex. The Department for Communities and Local Government will contribute £1.2 million towards the eviction, and the Home Office has pledged up to £4.65 million.
Basildon Council has set aside up to £8 million of its own funds to pay for the eviction, while Essex Police have promised £3 million.
To put this into perspective, another local council in Essex, Tendring District Council, is looking to make a similar amount of “savings” over the next four years, and there is talk of this being achieved in part by making around 200 people redundant.
Tory council leader Tony Ball said: “I am delighted the Government has recognised the importance of addressing this as a national issue, not just an issue for Basildon.”
He is right in one respect. This should be a national issue — a national scandal.
Dale Farm is the largest travellers’ site in England and the largest encampment in Europe. The families living there have received a lot of support from gypsy and Romany families across Europe who have themselves been facing increasing racist harassment, evictions and deportation especially from Silvio Berlusconi and Nicolas Sarkozy.
Thousands of people from across the world have pledged to protest and form a human barrier in the event of an eviction attempt, with hundreds of activists saying they will dig in near to the site to stop the authorities moving in.
Travellers at Dale Farm are hopeful a recent directive from the EU Commission, which has placed a deadline of the end of 2011 on Governments to provide suitable alternative accomodation and schools for gypsies and travellers, will give them a reprieve.
But we cannot rely on EU bureaucrats to defend human rights — we must take action ourselves.
Activists around the country are mobilising ready to move to Dale Farm as soon as a 28 day eviction notice is served on the site.
It is no accident that the same government whose policies have been given the seal of approval by the right-wing global bankers’ body, the IMF, can also find millions of pounds to make people homeless and trample on their human rights.
This money would be much better spent supporting the vulnerable, providing food and shelter and education for those who need it — including travellers who have always been consistently discriminated against on all these issues.