Letter: Double standards in government action on gypsies

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The Independent Online
Sir: We read with great concern the new proposals by the Government in the consultation paper on travellers (reports, 19 August). The package of proposed measures, which seeks to criminalise unauthorised caravan parking while reducing the availability of authorised sites, is nothing more than an attempt to squeeze travellers out of existence. The Government is launching an attack on the very identity of the travellers and their nomadic lifestyle.

Throughout history, travelling communities have taken to the road in response to broad social and economic conditions and have faced repression. During the time of the enclosures many of those who were thrown off common land and resorted to a nomadic lifestyle were harassed by penal laws.

Today, rising unemployment and homelessness have led to a new wave of travellers and new proposals for laws to harass them. Yet these proposals highlight the Government's failure to comprehend the needs of the travelling community. They are proposals founded on intolerance, distrust and misunderstanding.

If the Government implements these proposals and denies its citizens the fundamental right to live free from discrimination, then its public condemnation of 'ethnic cleansing' and of the intolerance of other nations towards their minority communities will ring somewhat hollow.

Yours sincerely,

ANDREW PUDDEPHATT

General Secretary

Liberty

London, SE1

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