Government consultation on evicting Gypsy and Traveller camps rolls on
Charity calls on Gypsies, Travellers and supporters to take part in the Government consultation which threatens to make trespass a criminal offence
The Government consultation on evicting unauthorised Traveller camps and the criminalisation of trespass is set to continue after the Conservatives won a big majority in last week’s general election, leaving them free to enact new laws without effective opposition.
The consultation was announced on November 5th, three days after the general election was called, prompting many Gypsy, Traveller and Roma campaigners to complain that the Government were using them as a political football to win votes.
In the consultation the Government threatens to:
- Make trespass a crime – resulting in prison, a fine or your vehicle being taken from you.
- Make it a crime for you to stop alongside or on the road – they will be able to move you along.
- Make it so police can act when there’s two vehicles, instead of six. A car, a trailer and a van would count as three vehicles. A horse drawn wagon also counts as a vehicle.
- Make it so police can force you to go to a transit site in another county.
- Make it so you’re banned from an area for one year instead of three months.
This will affect anyone who stops on land that they do not own and includes common land.
Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT), a Brighton based national charity, called on Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, and their supporters, to respond to the consultation, which ends on March 5th next year.
“We need as many people as possible to stand up and fight against the Government’s plans,” say FFT.
“These are some of the most harmful changes affecting Gypsies and Travellers for decades – your voice should be heard.”
FFT have set up a web page and a Facebook page to help Travellers and non-Travellers oppose the Government’s plans and have created a response template for people wanting to take part in the consultation by sending in a response. To see the template visit the FFT web page.
In their own response to the consultation, FFT state:
“We oppose the criminalisation of trespass, as it would criminalise nomadic communities including those with protected ethnic status. We do not believe criminalising trespass is compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010, as these measures are not proportionate or reasonable, particularly when there are insufficient authorised sites and stopping places. It conflicts with the requirement to ‘eliminate discrimination’ and ‘advance equality of opportunity’.
Criminalisation of trespass would not make unauthorised encampments and nomadic Gypsies and Travellers disappear, it will however compound the stark inequalities experienced by Gypsies and Travellers and raise serious questions about compatibility with human rights protections.”
(Photograph: Appleby Horse Fair (c) Natasha Quarmby/Fields of Light Photography)