Basildon's Bulldozer law
A dramatic legal victory this month has highlighted the possibility that
the UK government would face international condemnation should threats to
bulldoze Britain's largest Gypsy settlement be carried out.
The proposed raising of a hundred homes at Dale Farm would trigger damages
claims totalling anything up to eight million euro. But in addition the Labour
Government itself could be challenged under European law.
Lawyers representing residents at Dale Farm and nearby Hovefield, both
threatened with destruction by Basildon district council, have been alerted by
the news that 300,000 Roma in Greece have won an unprecedented case against
their own government.
Dale Farm representative Kathy McCarthy plans to deliver a warning to
Prime Minister Tony Blair next week stating that eviction by Basildon would
violate Article l6 of the European Social Charter.
"The law is on our side," she said. "We intend to get a hearing before a
judge as soon this is possible."
It is Article l6, guaranteeing protection of family life and accommodation
for all EU citizens, which has been broken by Greece, according to a ruling on 8
June from the European Committee on Social Rights.
The European Roma Rights Centre, which brought the complaint, says it
marks a turning point in legal efforts to end systematic human rights abuse of
Roma from the Ukraine to the United Kingdom. In Britain, more than 300 private
plots owned by Gypsies have been flattened and closed down in the past l8
However, one family has this week reoccupied a closed plot at Bulkington,
scene of two violent evictions by Constant. Legal proceedings have been
"Evictions are illegal," says Claude Cahn, the EERC
acting director. "Any country that allows such a policy to continue is now
exposing itself to a similar conviction."
As to the intention of Basildon to evict ten Gypsy families at
Hoverfield, preparations are being made to seek a judicial review of that
decision. Dale Farm residents are already suing under the Human Rights Act in
respect of earlier evictions they suffered in neighbouring Hertfordshire.
Strengthening the case against Britain is the recent report by the
Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Alvaro Gil-Robles. He says
present policy fails to meet accommodation and other basic needs and that racism
against Gypsies is rampant.
Meanwhile, an appeal is being made to Basildon councillors by members
of the Jewish community not to go ahead with evictions. Ruth Barnett, who
escaped the Nazi persecution in Germany, says she is concerned both for the
families involved and for the reputation of Britain.
She is asking members of the council committee which meets on Tuesday
(21 June) to think again about the families at Dale Farm, in particular the
children, and not to make a decision they could later regret.
A Jewish human rights monitoring team is being formed to witness the
direct action operation by Constant & Co., a company which styles itself as
Gypsy eviction specialists. The firm has submitted a blueprint for the
demolition of what is virtually a village at Crays Hill, Essex. It carries a
price-tag of three million euro.
Others preparing to observe the mass-demolition include Liberal
Democrat MP Nick Harvey. Some members of Basildon council have expressed their
the operation and a petition signed by local residents is to be presented soon.
Roma representatives will be reporting on the crisis to the Romanu
union parliament meeting in Belgrade on 1 July. The planned destruction of Dale
Farm has been condemned by Romani organisations in France, Germany and Serbia,
as well as the US, Canada and Australia.