Two United Nations independent human rights experts today urged the United Kingdom Government to find an appropriate solution to the problem of 86 Irish Traveller families faced with forced eviction from their homes due to an alleged violation of planning regulations.
“Evictions constitute a grave breach of human rights if not carried out with full respect for international standards,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, in a statement.
“We urge the UK authorities to halt the evictions process and to pursue negotiations with the residents until an acceptable agreement for relocation is reached in full conformity with international human rights obligations,” she said.
More than 300 people, a third of the Dale Farm Traveller community in Essex, are threatened with forced eviction. This includes some 110 children.
“It is now of utmost importance that the rights of the residents to fair compensation for their lost homes and property and the provision of adequate alternative housing are fully respected,” said Ms. Rolnik.
The newly appointed UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák, noted that “eviction inevitably renders all affected families extremely vulnerable, including with regard to their access to essential services. This is doubly so for Travellers who may have traditionally rooted specific housing needs, and who face considerable discrimination and hostility in wider society.”
She said special attention should also be given to the rights of families with members with disabilities or suffering ill-health and those with young children.
The Basildon District Council in Essex has been trying to evict Irish Traveller families since the late 1990s on the grounds of a lack of planning permits for their homes.
Although some Romani and Irish Traveller members of the Dale Farm community own the land, some families have been repeatedly denied permits for their caravans due to the restrictive “Green Belt” policy applied in the region.
“We are deeply concerned that, according to the eviction notices received by the 86 families, failure to vacate the respective plots by midnight 31 August 2011 will result in demolition of the residents’ housing and property by Council authorities, effectively leaving them homeless,” said Ms. Izsák.
The cost of the forced evictions is estimated at £18 million (about $30 million), including £10 million in policing costs.
“The irony of this case is that these costs do not appear to include the provision of adequate alternative accommodation for the evicted families, which are soon to be rendered homeless,” she added.