After an intense final exam schedule and a short visit from my parents to D.C., it is finally sinking in that in two more days, I will be crossing the Atlantic and arriving in England to begin my work at Dale Farm
The past month has felt like an intense crash course on Britain’s Traveler communities. Although I have formed an especially close relationship with the Roma/Traveler section of Georgetown’s library and exchanged frequent e-mails with members of Dale Farm, I am ready to have all of my assumptions challenged by the realities on the ground.
The situation at Dale Farm is at a crossroads. Over the past two years, Traveler families at Dale Farm in Essex have been engaged in a protracted legal dispute with the Basildon town council to avoid forceful eviction them from their land. While members of Dale Farm have not yet been evicted, the town council has spent more than £360,000 in legal fees to try and remove them and employed a bailiff service which has already demolished the homes of four families at another Traveler community nearby. The fear is that Dale Farm, the largest Traveler community in Britain with over 1,000 residents, could be the next community forcefully evicted from their land.
Dale Farm is indicative of a much larger problem that many British citizens are currently unaware of – the inability of the UK government to protect the rights of minorities who arouse prejudice. The issue at hand is not whether the Travelers at Dale Farm own the land on which they currently reside but, rather, that they have repeatedly been denied planning permission by the town council on the grounds that they live on environmentally-protected land (Green Belt). This rational for denying Dale Farm planning permission is suspicious, since non-Travelers are routinely given permission to build in the Green Belt. As such, members of Dale Farm feel that they are victims of discrimination and that the efforts toward their eviction are racially motivated.
This summer will be pivotal in deciding whether or not residents of Dale Farm will be allowed to stay on their land, be forcefully evicted or receive an alternative location in which to reestablish themselves at another caravan park. I am honored to have the opportunity to assist the Dale Farm community in its efforts and to experience firsthand the developments on the ground during this crucial time.
Posted By Zach Scott
Posted May 23rd, 2007