Irish Chaplaincy calls for end to Travellers evictions

Digger smashes into Travellers camp

Digger smashes into Travellers camp

On Tuesday, 7 September, the eviction of seven Traveller families began at the Hovefields site in Essex. At eight in the morning bailiffs Constant & Co, accompanied by police, arrived at the site and began telling families to leave their homes. The bailiffs occupied a pitch at the site, which they made a base for their operations, and then proceeded to bring in diggers to smash plots of ground, preventing later re-entry.

Irish Chaplaincy volunteer, Elisabeth Blanchet, attended the eviction to document the proceedings and a video of the evictions is available on the ICB’s website: In her film, Elisabeth identified numerous breaches of international human rights law, including the failure to provide alternative housing, the disruption to children's education, and the failure to keep heavy machinery within the safety perimeter. The Irish Chaplaincy are concerned that there were no authorized government representatives present and bailiffs and police refused to facilitate legal observers' access to the site. When these issues were brought up with the police overseeing the eviction process, they refused to respond, maintaining that they were there to prevent breaches of the peace by those resisting eviction, no matter the legality of the operation itself.

Two supporters were arrested early in the day, and a seventy-two year old man, John Lee, had his nose fractured after his face was smashed into his caravan before Irish Chaplaincy and other observers arrived.

At the end of the day, one pitch had been bulldozed, and three families had left the site. The other four families whose pitches are being evicted stayed, though the bailiffs had already cut off access to electricity and water for the majority of the site. The families who left the Hovefields site went to a nearby unoccupied site that had previously been earmarked by the national government as a potential resettlement area; but this move was refused by Basildon Council, eager to chase the Traveller community out of Essex.

The Irish Chaplaincy through its Travellers project, have long highlighted the shortfall of adequate legal pitches for Irish Travellers which force families into a cycle of forced evictions. The Irish Chaplaincy estimates a shortfall of about 750 sites for Irish Travellers.

Fr Joe Browne, of the Irish Chaplaincy said: “The Irish Chaplaincy has worked on the Dale Farm traveller site in Essex for a number of years now. Dale Farm is the the biggest IrishTravellers community in Europe and we know that the 86 familes there are now under imminent threat of eviction. It will be the same bailiff company involved, and they see Hovefields evictions as a dry run for what is going to be the biggest eviction in British history. The Irish Chaplaincy is committed to calling for these evictions to stop”.
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