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Letter: Travellers' lifestyle in danger

WE ARE concerned at the potential effect of the proposed legislation relating to travellers. There are about 5,000 travellers on the roads of Britain, most of whom live peaceably and in no way represent a 'problem' or danger to society.

The travellers' lifestyle and that of their children is threatened by the repeal of the 1968 Caravan Sites Act and the increased police and local authority powers in relation to camping which the Government is introducing as part of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill.

Travellers will have nowhere to park their vehicles as camping on virtually all land will become a criminal offence. The chronic public underprovision of traveller sites in the last 25 years will not be remedied by private site provision as the Government expects. The history of planning permission applications by travellers is one of discrimination and prejudice and travellers will be unable to find sites of their own. Many public sites resemble prison camps with barbed wire fences, curfews and control of people's movements. The thought of private developers cashing in on this opportunity and exploiting a minority group is disturbing.

The legislation will result in a wave of evictions. Traveller families will be split up and children placed in care. Apart from the human misery which will be inflicted, the costs of policing and social service provision are out of all proportion to the 'problem'. We urge the Government to reconsider, extend public provision of sites and instigate an independent inquiry into the position of travellers and how best their needs can be met. Travellers should have the right to pursue a nomadic existence, to freedom of movement and of a 'place to stay'. They should be respected as significant contributors to our culture and be given equal protection under our laws. Their very existence is under threat.

Steve Staines

Friends, Families and Travellers Support Group

Blandford Forum, Dorset