Leeds GATE

Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

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Hate Crime concerns for families on Camps

Helen Jones's picture
By Helen Jones |  August 29, 2017 |

Its been a busy summer for unauthorised encampment, probably due to the Government's recent change to the planning definition of travellers [sic] which obliges families to prove that they regularly travel in order to remain eligeable to live on, or develop their own, Gypsy sites.  Concern is growing that lurid media reporting, inflammatory statements by politicians, and overall failure to manage encampment positively, is leading to an increase in hate crime attacks on Gypsy and Traveller people. Concerns are rising about the increasing community cohesion as illustrated by the situation that happened in Weston super Mare on Sunday 20th August, in which a public protest arranged by social media and, with some interaction with police having occurred, took place on a recreation ground on which a Traveller family or families were stopping. On the same weekend a Norfolk seaside town, Cromer, was reportedly 'shut down' in response to behaviour linked, though not always with any evidence, to an unauthorised encampment on the outskirts of town.

These events have raised increasing discussion of safety of people on camps including GATE Herts's reportracismgrt website, as well as in the Leeds GATE office and on other public forum.  Some of the discussion surely indicates a background level of insecurity for families which is of itself alarming, but it may also reflect a worsening situation.  It is fair to say that across the country significant concern is growing about the safety of families on roadside and other stopping places, and indeed for Gypsy and Traveller people wherever they are. 

The tone and volume of journalistic commentary that also seems to be gaining some momentum at this time is additionally of some alarm. Hand in hand with an apparent permission felt by politicians and others to make statements applying collective guilt to Gypsy and Traveller people for perceived and real anti-social behaviour of others as in the recent example of Scottish Conservative Douglas Ross MP.

There is no doubt that alarmist media reporting creates further moral panic and potential for disorder.  Those of us who have been around long enough remember the death of Johnny Delaney as still raw, as well as events that took place in Tamworth, where a camp was violently attacked and set fire to, around the same time as the Sun newspaper's Stamp on the Camps campaign. 

These events surely speak to the need for work to develop widespread conflict resolution negotiation practice and response to Gypsy Traveller stopping places.  Leeds GATE and others I'm sure would suggest that the apparent significant worsening of community cohesion and media tone begs for public agencies to come out very publicly and support positive responses to so called unauthorised encampment by Gypsy and Traveller people in pursuit of their legal right to nomadic ways of life. I hope you can help us to make that happen.

If you have been affected or have knowledge of violent or abusive behaviour happening in response to unauthorised encampment, please help us to understand the scale of the problem by reporting on the reportracismgrt website. Other events of hate crime directed towards Gypsy, Traveller and Roma people can also be reported on the website.

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