Residents of the UK's biggest illegal Traveller site vowed to fight attempts to evict them yesterday after losing their final appeal in the High Court.
Supporters called for reinforcements and began manning the barricades after people living illegally at Dale Farm in Essex were refused permission to appeal against a court ruling allowing the local council to go ahead with the evictions.
Soon after the verdict was delivered, supporters of the Travellers said the site had gone into "lockdown" and Kathleen McCarthy, a Dale Farm resident, said: "This looks like the end of the road. We'll have to fight the bailiffs off." She added: "We've been left with no choice, we really have nowhere else to go. Do you think we'd put ourselves through this if we did?
"The law is prejudiced against Travellers. We were told 15 years ago to get off the road and buy our own land, but now they are forcing us and our kids out on to the road again. The barricades are all that stand between us and homelessness now."
The Travellers own the land near Basildon but do not have planning permission to live on approximately half of it. The legal battle has been rumbling on for more than 10 years but Court of Appeal judge Lord Justice Sullivan's decision yesterday that they cannot challenge an earlier verdict allowing the evictions to go ahead, brings the fight to an end in the UK courts.
However, Grattan Puxon, a spokesman for the Travellers, said they intended to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that the evictions represent a contravention of their right to respect for private and family life. "We have already filed papers with the European Court of Human Rights and we are in line for a hearing but we don't know if it would be given emergency status and we do not have an injunction holding off the evictions until we can go. We are clear that we are left open to eviction from now. We are expecting the bailiffs to try to come into the site in the next 48 hours," he said.
"The UN has been saying for some months that the evictions would be a breach of our human rights. We believe it breaches Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights."
The residents were given a last-minute reprieve on 26 September while legal issues over what could and could not be removed from the site and applications to bring judicial reviews were considered. Basildon Council repeated its call for residents to leave peacefully.
Tony Ball, leader of the council, said: "Since last Wednesday evening the residents at Dale Farm have been living on borrowed time. The so-called supporters should also pack up their belongings and leave the site. If they have the Travellers' best interest at heart they will either leave the area now or confine their activities to helping the Travellers to leave."
He said the council would not give further notice of when a site clearance would begin, adding: "We are required to give 48 hours' notice to three plots and that we will do but the rest of the site will now be cleared at a time of our choosing. Our job is now to clear this site in a safe and dignified manner and this is what we intend to do."
Writing on their blog, Dale Farm Solidarity – a group supporting the residents – said: "We need supporters to come down as soon as possible to help resist this eviction."Reuse content