No room at the inn for Essex gypsies

Ninety gypsy families will spend an insecure Christmas as they await an Appeal Court ruling. Judges in London will decide whether they may continue to inhabit - for the time being - their own land.

So uncertain is the outcome of the appeal that Dale Farm families have been advised to register as homeless, according to Gypsy campaigner Grattan Puxon. “They are likely to spend part of Christmas completing a joint homeless application, seeking re-accommodation not in houses but in their own mobile-homes and caravans on land somewhere else in the Basildon district.

“Basildon council claimed in court there are no sites available for such an alternative. They maintain there's no room at the inn for Travellers' children and their mothers. Not even the new born,” Puxon says.

The court’s decision, which is expected in the New Year will determine whether Basildon Tory leader Malcolm Buckley can go ahead with a £3m eviction operation. Last week campaigners from around the UK and Europe joined together outside the Appeal Court as the hearing began.

Support for the families under siege is growing. Thousands have signed petitions and many are pledged to come to Dale Farm to protest against any eviction attempt. Dozens are enrolled as Human Rights Monitors.

“This Sunday Romani singer and activist Kerieva will be at the Centre for a crisis meeting with Dale Farm mothers,” Puxon says. “She is backing Gypsy Council plans for further action to head off the worst aspects of a direct action eviction by Constant & Co. bailiffs. These include discussions with senior police officers and Essex Fire and Rescue concerning health and safety aspects of such an operation. The Gypsy Council says bailiffs have in the past ignored safety rules endangering the lives of small children and the elderly.”

In recent evictions at Hovefields bailiffs have used heavy machinery close to children according to Gypsy Council president Richard Sheridan. “No perimeter fencing has been erected.”

The fact is ample ground remains vacant at Pitsea, at a site first recommended by John Prescott while Deputy Prime Minister. In addition, several large building sites now stand empty and idle due the housing slump.

“These building sites have hardstanding, piped-water and electricity,” commented Sheridan. “Any one of them would make an ideal temporary stopping place if we are compelled by force to leave our Dale Farm homes.”

Anyone wishing to attend the meeting on Sunday 14 December (3 pm) at the Saint Christopher Centre, Dale Farm, can call Sheridan on 07747 417711. Information on the meeting of the Gypsy Council taking place on Saturday (13 Dec) in Kent can be obtained from: Joe Jones 07765 174141

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