UK High Court delays Traveler eviction ruling

LONDON — A British judge said Friday that a decade-long battle between authorities and a community of Irish Travelers who have been living illegally on a former scrapyard must be brought to an end, but acknowledged there would likely be no immediate ruling in the case.

By (AP)

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Published: Fri 23 Sep 2011, 8:27 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 1:56 AM

Justice Anthony Edwards-Stuart told the High Court that he would rule next week on an injunction which is preventing a local authority from clearing the Dale Farm site, 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of London, earlier this week.

The judge also confirmed that the Travelers had launched a new legal challenge to prevent their eviction. The local authority says the operation has already cost 8 million pounds ($13 million), and the price is mounting with each day’s delay.

“These matters have got to be put to bed sooner and not later,” Edwards-Stuart told Britain’s High Court.

Officials say the long simmering dispute between authorities and residents relates to a a simple planning issue — the 86 families lack permission to pitch homes on the land.

But the Travelers say they are facing discrimination — the latest chapter in a centuries-old story of mistrust between nomads and British society.

The Travelers are a traditionally nomadic group similar to, but ethnically distinct from, Gypsies or Roma people. Their plight has drawn concern from the United Nations and support from celebrities including actress Vanessa Redgrave.

The conflict over the settlement has raged since 2001, when Travelers bought and settled on a former scrapyard next to a legal Travelers’ site. The local authority waged a long legal battle to remove them, which it finally won last month.

Eviction was due to begin earlier this week and brought a tense standoff, with Travelers and protesters chaining themselves to the gates of their camp as bailiffs moved in to enforce the eviction order.

On Monday the Travelers won a last-minute reprieve when a judge prevented bailiffs from removing any structures, including cars and mobile homes, from their settlement before Friday’s hearing.

Edwards-Stuart said he would make a final ruling on whether or not to overturn that injunction, and decide on other legal attempts to halt the evictions, next week.

He said the evictions would ultimately be carried out, but that the residents were “entitled to be treated with dignity.”

The Travelers have said they will agree to move out if they are given time to find another place to live.

There are estimated to be between 15,000 and 30,000 Irish Travelers in Britain, where they are recognized as a distinct ethnic minority by the government.

Over the past few decades laws limiting unauthorized camping, economic changes and a desire to see their children educated led many to settle down — sometimes legally, on land provided by the government, and sometimes on unauthorized plots.



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