One of our Stockport members, Sandy Broadhurst, explains why it’s so important that tenants support the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community in this country, and the Drive 2 Survive campaign to challenge the new Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill which threatens their very existence.
Everyone knows there’s a crisis. We’re short of homes, be it good affordable places to rent or Traveller sites; there aren’t enough good landlords; too many evictions and a legal system biased against the tenant.
For the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community, however, these problems – already severe – will escalate dramatically when the Police Bill is passed.
Being evicted is dreadful, but can you imagine being evicted wherever you go and then often having your home smashed up as well?
In the thirties in Nazi Germany, Gypsies in their trailers were run off the road and their caravans destroyed. This made them homeless but that was almost irrelevant because they were then sent to concentration camps and exterminated.
In October 2011, there were mass evictions from Dale Farm in Essex. Eighty six Traveller families lived there, on land they owned. They were evicted by armed riot police at a cost to the local authority of over £10 million. Their homes were then destroyed. Many of those families are still living on the roadside without any electricity or running water.
When the Police Bill becomes law, and trespass become a criminal rather than a civil offence, the police will be handed many new powers and GRT families will be targeted again.
With history repeating itself, families will again be forced off the road, their trailer homes taken and many of them sent to prison. This will not only make families homeless but it will destroy their centuries old travelling lifestyle. It will deny them basic human rights – a right to a home and an undisturbed family life and the right to a traditional way of life.
Further, in targeting specific ethnic groups the Government will be embedding racism in law and in making a traditional lifestyle impossible. They, like the Nazis will be practicing ethnic cleansing.
We are all entitled to these basic human rights and we need to stand together to fight for them. The solution is simple, provide more homes to rent, or in the case of Gypsies, provide more Traveller sites – but this takes time.
In the short term, we all need to stand together opposing the eviction of Travellers whilst supporting tenants and campaigning for more affordable homes. Drive 2 Survive is a coalition of Romany Gypsy, Irish Traveller, nomadic activists, and community organisations who are determined to use peaceful protest and civil disobedience to highlight this threat to the freedoms of all people. They have been organising peaceful protests throughout the summer and autumn this year, and some of our members caught up with them at the Tory Conference protest in Manchester last month. Find out more about Drive 2 Survive on their website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or donate to their campaign fund here.
There are a number of other groups already supporting the GRT community, such as Amnesty International, Liberty, Kill the Bill, Stand up to Racism and others. They are fighting the persecution of the GRT community who are not only in danger of losing their homes but of losing their very existence.
As an organisation we need to show our solidarity, speaking out against this racist ethnic cleansing, opposing the repeated evictions and campaign alongside them for more Traveller sites.
Together we will win. There is strength in solidarity.