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Who Are the Travellers

Who Are the Travellers

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Published by: bgeller4936 on Dec 31, 2011
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11-12-15 9:27 AMWho are the Travellers, and Why are They so Hated?Page 1 of 4http://m.ibtimes.com/dale-farm-travellers-who-are-travellers-why-are-travellers-hated-dale-farm-eviction-234197.html
IBTimes Home > World
October 19, 2011 2:57 PM EDT
Who are the Travellers, and Why are They so Hated?
Essex Police successfully evicted the Irish Traveller residents of Dale Farm on Wednesday.The controversial land seizure escalated into a "war zone," according to a number of English newsoutlets, with residents and activists defending the fortified community from an invading police force.Burning mobile homes blocked paths as officers attempted to remove people from the area.Twenty-three people were arrested, two stunned by Taser guns and at least six people were injured.Dale Farm was just the latest eviction in England, where traveller communities have beenpersecuted for centuries.So who are the travellers and why are they so hated?The Irish Travellers, sometimes called Pavees, are an ethnically Irish nomadic community. InEngland, they live in small, tight-knit groups and are characterized as living on Caravan sites -- anEnglish equivalent to a trailer park. Because of the nomadic and informal nature of traveller communities, they frequently settle in unauthorized plots and common fields.Long subject to discrimination, hatred and eviction, England has passed a number of laws to protecttraveller communities, and authorities are required to provide new caravan sites when clearing anarea like Dale Farm. Nonetheless, there have been a number of forced evictions in recent years."Along with Romani Gypsies, Irish Travellers remain an object of widespread prejudice in Britishsociety. What we're seeing take place at Dale Farm today is the culmination of years of intolerance,"author Owen Jones wrote in The Telegraph."There's a lot of talk about the travellers breaking the law -- but, in reality, it's a position they've been
 
11-12-15 9:27 AMWho are the Travellers, and Why are They so Hated?Page 2 of 4http://m.ibtimes.com/dale-farm-travellers-who-are-travellers-why-are-travellers-hated-dale-farm-eviction-234197.html
forced into. Rather than spending millions of pounds to forcibly throw families out of their homes, weshould be looking at how build a society that's far more accepting of minority groups. As thingsstand, riot police charging protesters has become one of the defining images of Cameron's Britain."The unofficial status of many of the traveller communities allows the government to ignore them."I was aware that they had to bring in water in stainless steel milk cans for their everyday use, and Iwondered what they did with their disposable nappies [diapers] and other human waste," Dale Farmresident Germaine Greer said in a Telegraph editorial, referring to a visit the traveller encampment atStump Cross Roundabout in Essex."I rang the local council and asked whether, as the travellers were only yards from the sewagetreatment plant, they mightn't have sewerage, given there were so many children on the site. I wastold the pitch was illegal and the travellers were there on sufferance."But where does the prejudice come from?The lawbreaking that Jones speaks of is one part of it. Traveller communities are often built withoutlegal permission, sometimes on public greens and sometimes on privately-owned land. When thetravellers first moved to Dale Farm in the 1960s, much of it was already designated as a scrap yard.As the community grew over the decades, more homes were built on land that was part of the "greenbelt," a ring of land around London protected from urbanization and city sprawl.Officially, this is why the Dale Farm community was cleared. After nearly a decade of legal battles,the Basildon city council will be able to restore Dale Farm to green belt specifications over the nextfew months."The Traveller community is being criminalized- it has been made illegal for them to travel, but theyare not being allowed to settle," Natalie Fox, a spokesperson for Dale Farm Solidarity, told the DaleFarm Supporters blog. "If Traveller families are not allowed to make their home on a former scrapyard, then where will they be allowed to live?"Not all the residents of Dale Farm are Irish Travellers. Some are Romani, a similar nomadic groupthat has spread across continental Europe. Traditionally a traveling community with roots tracingback to India, the Romani peoples are also oft subject to extreme, institutionalized persecution.Facing de facto discrimination in most European countries, the Romani, or Gypsy, community iseconomically troubled and many Romani live in slums, shanty-towns or in substandard housing.Like the travellers, these communities have been subject to forced eviction and displacement in thepast.Land disputes aside, the travellers are an ostracized group, and an Irish researcher found in Maythat they were nearly as despised as drug addicts and alcohols. As discovered by many Americansand Britons on the BBC show "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding," travellers still face discrimination in theworkplace, forcing many of them to lie in order to be employed.While there is no definitive logic for these prejudices, the travellers' inclusiveness doesn't help thesituation. They are a tight-knit, insular community steeped with unwavering tradition. While they fight
 
11-12-15 9:27 AMWho are the Travellers, and Why are They so Hated?Page 3 of 4http://m.ibtimes.com/dale-farm-travellers-who-are-travellers-why-are-travellers-hated-dale-farm-eviction-234197.html
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for rights, they also sometimes fight against assimilation into normative society.Irish Travelers are said to be 'endogamous,' that is, they marry within their own group and marriageoutside the group is frowned upon. Traditionally, children are home-schooled," Southern Crossnewspaper said in 2008.Like the Romani, they are also widely considered to be violent, unkempt grafters - general menacesto society. Both men and women are thought of as drunks who like to brawl and gamble. In 2007 theGovernor's Office of Consumer Affairs of Georgia published a letter titled "Irish Travelers Perpetuatea Tradition of Fraud.""These descendants of Irish immigrants live in nomadic clans and make their living by perpetuatinghome improvement fraud and selling substandard machinery at huge mark-ups," the statement,which has been removed from the Georgia state Wed site, read.Additionally, many Irish citizens were shocked when a family feud at a traveller camp in 2008 turnedinto an all-out riot."Petrol bombs, stones, chainsaws, golf clubs, a samurai sword and other dangerous missiles wereused in the clashes. The row has been described by an eyewitness as 'like a scene from 1980s'Belfast.'" The Independent reported at the time.Nonetheless, travellers are protected under the Caravan Sites Act of 1968, which restricts theeviction of caravan sites. The same local authorities that evict travellers are required "to secure theestablishment of such sites by local authorities for the use of gipsies [sic] and other persons of nomadic habit, and control in certain areas the unauthorized [sic] occupation of land by suchpersons."So far, the Dale Farm travellers have not been shown where they will be relocated, despite apromise that land has been set aside. So Wednesday night, with many caravans burned or broken,about 82 families are left to fend for themselves."The memory of Dale Farm will weigh heavily on Britain for generations- we are being dragged out of the only homes we have in this world," Dale Farm resident Kathleen McCarthy stated. Our entirecommunity is being ripped apart by Basildon Council and the politicians in government."
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