Following the news that Essex Police have now secured £4.65 million from the Home Office, Basildon Council seems more determined than ever to go ahead with its £18 million eviction campaign at Dale Farm. Councillors agreed the final funding arrangements for the eviction at a meeting last night, and the 86 Traveller families fear that the 28-day notice letters could follow any day.
This eviction will be the largest the UK has ever seen and the humanitarian impact will undoubtedly be significant, particularly given that Basildon Council has chosen the controversial bailiff firm, Constant & Co., to remove the Travellers. Even Constant & Co.’s smaller-scale evictions of Travellers at Meadowlands (see pt. 2 of the video here), Twin Oaks, and Hovefields have been brutal, with allegations that Constant ignored health and safety regulations, burned chalets and caravans, and racially abused residents. Mr Justice Andrew Collins called their methods into question during a 2008 judicial review, and declared it “inappropriate” for Basildon Council to continue using the company. Nevertheless, Basildon Council has stuck with the firm.
Furthermore, in Basildon Council’s own Statement Regarding the Proposed Eviction from its Legal Services Manager, Lorraine Brown, it promised to “ensure that as a part of the procurement process for the appointment of bailiffs…that health and safety, equality duties, partnership working, experience and previous record of conduct are factors that will be assessed.” Given these requirements, it is difficult to understand how Basildon Council can have selected Constant & Co. a company with an undeniably problematic record with Traveller evictions in all of the areas mentioned (which has been publicly highlighted by a High Court judge, the Deputy Children’s Commissioner and the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing). How does a company that boasts of their ‘unrivalled experience’ in evicting a particular ethnic group propose to meet their equality duties to that group?
The question now is how Basildon Council and Constant & Co. plan to adhere to agreed human rights standards and to minimise the humanitarian impact of such a large-scale eviction. The UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing’s Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement outlines agreed standards for ensuring respect of human rights during an eviction process. Not only are States obligated to ensure that “evictions should not result in individuals being rendered homeless” and that “the human right to adequate housing should be guaranteed without discrimination based on ethnic or social origin”, but the document also provides specific guidelines for ensuring human rights during evictions. According to the guidelines, States should ensure the presence of government officials and neutral observers, protect the right to life, dignity and security, make special arrangements to ensure the rights of women and children, avoid evictions in inclement weather, at night, prior to school examinations or during religious occasions, and to ensure the protection of people and possessions from violence or destruction.
So far, neither Basildon Council nor Constant & Co. have commented on how they propose to guarantee that human rights standards are met during the eviction. The UK Deputy Children’s Commissioner has, on several occasions, asked the council what it intends to do to safeguard children during demolition and what alternative accommodation is being offered them, but no satisfactory answer has yet been received. Given the brutality of past Constant & Co. Traveller evictions, the lack of attention by Basildon Council given to recognised human rights standards and the rising tensions amongst Travellers who own the land at Dale Farm and have nowhere else to go, this eviction is a humanitarian catastrophe in the making.
Posted By Susan Craig-Greene
Posted Jul 1st, 2011