Thomas Hammarberg: Please end this disgrace, Mr Pickles

Instead of more confrontation surely it is time for a mediated settlement on Traveller sites?

Share
Related Topics

Gypsies and Travellers throughout the UK are being denied their human rights. Adequate housing – a basic human right and a precondition for other rights, such as education and health – is now an urgent concern. Despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that the UK has an obligation to "facilitate the Gypsy way of life", access to culturally acceptable accommodation is still out of reach for many.

A powerful illustration is the Traveller site at Dale Farm in Essex. Last October, 86 families, including more than 100 children, were evicted from the site where they had lived for many years, on land they own. But many of those who were removed, or who left before the much-publicised evictions began, have returned. They have either squeezed in to the much-reduced authorised part of the site or parked their trailers and caravans along the roads leading up to Dale Farm. As a result, many families including old people, babies or the sick are currently exposed to unacceptable health and safety hazards including poor sanitation.

Basildon Council has warned of further evictions. But instead of a fresh round of confrontations, surely it is time for negotiations. This could, I believe, be done with the help of an independent mediator. More effort could be made to find sustainable solutions acceptable to both local communities, travellers and non-travellers. I am calling on Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to ensure that a settlement is found to the crisis, which would protect the Travellers' legal right to housing and respect their cultural diversity.

Failure to do so risks creating further human rights violations. In a climate of intensifying popular prejudice against Travellers, it is already becoming harder and harder for them to find adequate accommodation. The system which required local authorities to carry out assessments of accommodation needs and to develop strategies in response has been virtually dismantled. As a result, many local authorities are building fewer residential pitches than they would have done in the past. Difficulties in obtaining planning permission to develop land that Travellers actually own means they are often pushed towards unauthorised encampment. This is the case for approximately a quarter of the 60,000 to 70,000 Gypsies and Travellers living in caravans in the UK.

Involving local authorities is important. But central government has a duty to ensure that local acts do not lead to human rights violations. Dale Farm must not be left to set a negative example for other local authorities. Gypsies and Travellers deserve better than the neglectful official treatment they are currently receiving in the UK.

Thomas Hammarberg is the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: moderate, iconic royals are a shoe-in for a pedantic kicking

Guy Keleny
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: Cameron is running scared from the “empty chair”

Oliver Wright
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us