Open hostility to Gypsies and Travellers

March 3, 2011 — News

Written by Harmit Athwal

Last weekend, on a wet Saturday morning, campaigners gathered for a weekend of protest at the high of levels anti-Gypsy/Traveller racism but, by Sunday, the protest had to be called off after threats were received.

Over fifty people, men, women and children, gathered from across the UK to protest at the rising levels of racism. IRR News was told some shocking stories about how people are being treated on a daily basis – treatment that would be anathema to today’s Black and ethnic minority communities but which, apparently, seems the norm for the Gypsy and Travelling communities.

The harassment appears to be coming from two quarters – from the powers that be, those individuals and institutions that should provide local services, and also from the locals in the communities in which Travellers and Gypsies find themselves living.

One man, Dean, told IRR News how he and his family had recently been removed from their local doctor’s register after being with the surgery for many years. Now, if they have to see a doctor they have to sign on as temporary patients. Dean described how a doctor had refused to see a very obviously sick child (whom he had seen and treated on previous occasions) until the child’s distraught mother filled in a temporary patient’s form correctly. Other families also spoke about how this pattern of being removed from their doctor’s list was being repeated with other families living on the same site. Local council refuse collectors had also refused to pick up rubbish from the site.

Others at the demonstration spoke about how they had ‘never seen anything like it’ [the raw racism] and how their communities were under ‘extreme provocation’ with constant harassment and hostility. This is often directed, IRR News was told, at young people, who are regularly stopped by security guards and refused entry to local shopping centres because they have been identified as belonging to the Gypsy/Travelling community.

Gypsy elders told IRR News how recent law changes stopped them from staying on common land and farmers who used to happily accept Gypsies and Travellers on their land, now no longer did so, making the lives of such communities untenable.

Those were the kinds of issues that those on the protest demonstration wanted to talk about. But worse was to come. Those present at the demonstration on Saturday received threats from a hostile public for simply attending. The demonstration, due to be held over two days, was prematurely ended after those present and those who stayed back at sites received threats via Facebook and telephone.

Related links

Read an IRR News story: ‘Gypsies’ big fat struggle for justice’

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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