Tuesday, 11 November 2014


#weSTILLcount is the name the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit has given to its postcard campaign opposing the Government's proposals for planning policy guidance about Traveller sites.  If you would like a quick and easy way to give a useful response, do contact them.  They are very good at sending out postcards which people can just fill in with their name address and signature and then post off. E-mail is:

An organisation that I belong to, the Churches Network for Gypsies, Travellers
 and Roma has prepared a more detailed response.  Here it is in full.

Response to Consultation: planning and travellers

Please note that this response will need to be read in conjunction with the Consultation paper at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/355840/current_con_doc_in_publication_format_140917.pdf

Q1 – Do you agree that the planning definition of travellers should be amended to remove the words or permanently to limit it to those who have a nomadic habit of life? If not, why not?

It is no use talking about planning permission for people who are travelling (“have a nomadic habit of life”) if it is impossible to travel.

It is at present so difficult to follow a nomadic way of life that most Gypsies and Travellers are unable to do so.  There are no stopping places, few transit sites, no emergency sites and families on the roadside face constant eviction.
(See, for example, Hargreaves and Brindley, 2011, “Planning for Gypsies and Travellers: The Impact of Localism”, Irish Traveller Movement). Families have therefore been forced into housing because here aren’t enough sites.  Those who are on sites cannot easily travel due to the risk of losing their pitch. Nevertheless, the vast majority of people who call themselves Gypsies or Travellers are referring to an ethnic identity which is very meaningful to them, and looking forward to the possibility that their children will be able to live a way of life that respects their caravan-dwelling culture. One impact of this proposed change will be that families will have to move onto unauthorised encampments so that they are counted as needing a pitch. 

This will increase the social exclusion which has been demonstrated by many studies of health and educational standards.

Cemlyn at al. reported in 2009 that:
“Niner (2004a) found that in the absence of culturally-specific accommodation
(predominantly residential Gypsy and Traveller sites), the shortfall in accommodation is met by unauthorised encampments which often fail to provide even remotely adequate living standards for Gypsies and Travellers, and which perpetuate social exclusion through a lack of access to education and health care. In an influential report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Crawley (2004) emphasised the appalling inequalities experienced by Gypsies and Travellers in relation to health and education, and called for the development of a high-level unit, advised by a Traveller Task Force, to oversee the delivery of adequate sites (specifically through local development frameworks) within the new planning regime which was coming into force at that time.”
(Cemlyn, S. et al., 2009, Inequalities experienced by Gypsy and Traveller communities: a review, University of Bristol, Buckinghamshire New University, Friends, Families and Travellers
That the situation has not improved is demonstrated by recent reports:
·         Ryder, Cemlyn and Acton, 2014, Hearing the Voices of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities: Inclusive Community Development, Bristol: Policy Press
·         Lane, Spencer and Jones, , 2014, Gypsy, Traveller and Roma: Experts by Experience, Anglia Ruskin University and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
·         British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, 2014, Travellers, Gypsies and Roma: access to public services and community relations
·         Ryder and Cemlyn, 2014,Civil Society Monitoring: on the Implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategies Decade of Roma Inclusion Secretariat Foundation,

To quote the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups, “The NFGLG found that mainstream polices in the areas of discrimination, accommodation, education, employment and health have consistently failed Gypsies and Travellers in the past and are continuing to fail these communities today”. 

Ryder and Cemlyn moreover identified a worsening of the situation as a result of policies being implemented by the coalition government which increase the likelihood of exclusion.

The proposed change will make it even less likely that the historic undersupply of sites which is mentioned in paragraph 1.1. of your Introduction will be successfully addressed.

Another impact will be that a planning system which is already heavily biased against Gypsies and Travellers will become even more unjust.  The 2009 report explained that: “Over 90 per cent of planning applications for private (usually self- or family-owned) Gypsy sites are refused at first hearing, often following orchestrated campaigns by aggrieved (sedentary) local residents, though permission is overwhelmingly granted on appeal
(CRE, 2006a; Williams, 1999).” The figure of 90 per cent is supported by recent research carried out by the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups.

Applying a definition that depends on nomadic lifestyle can and does lead to the ridiculous situation that a parent may qualify but, if their planning application is successful, their children will not. ( Traveller Movement, 2014, “A Place to Call Home” : Case study, page 12) This will mean that Gypsy and Traveller children will have no future as Gypsies and Travellers. As both caravan dwelling and communal living within strong extended family bonds are both integral to Gypsy and Traveller culture, this is discriminatory.

Q2 – Are there any additional measures which would support those travellers who maintain a nomadic habit of life to have their needs met? If so, what are they?

Provide sufficient secure stopping-places.

An Independent Task Group set up by the Department for Communities and Local Government, and reporting in 2007 concluded that:
“real improvements cannot be made while the provision of authorised sites remains woefully inadequate for the needs of Gypsies and Travellers.”

This remains the case, and there has been some incentive for local authorities to respond.  The proposals in this proposed Planning Policy Guidance remove what few incentives there were, and fail to propose monitoring of local authorities’ provision for Gypsies and Travellers to ensure that those limited duties that do remain are fulfilled.

Some local planning authorities, such as for example those in Essex, have begun to put into their local development plans forward planning for Gypsy and caravan site provision.  It is important not to curtail these positive developments.

We urge the Government to reconsider its proposals, which will significantly worsen an already very difficult and stressful environment for both Gypsies and Travellers and Local Authorities who seek to fulfil their public sector equality duty under S149 of the Equality Act 2010 as well as upholding and enforcing planning policy.

Relevant to the current duty to foster good relations, the Independent Task Group pointed to the myths and misinformation that fuel local opposition to the provision of sites:
“The most significant stumbling block is opposition from members of the settled community, fuelled by negative perceptions of living near to a Gypsy and Traveller site.

“A key challenge, then, must be to address those fears. This may be a difficult task, but it is not a hopeless one. Work undertaken by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on the experience of neighbours of three newly established Gypsy and Traveller sites showed that, a year after the development had been completed, members of the settled community said that most of their concerns had been entirely groundless. These are the stories that need to be told, and developers – whether local authorities, Registered Social Landlords or Gypsies and Travellers themselves – must be ready to tell them.”

Relevant to the upholding and enforcement of planning policy the ITG wrote:

“At the heart of the issue lies the  provision of adequate, decent quality
accommodation to meet the needs of Gypsies and Travellers. During the lifespan  of the Task Group, we met with several local authorities with differing policies on enforcement. It became obvious that  those authorities that had already made progress on site provision had better results than those that resorted only to enforcement action. To take perhaps the clearest example, Bristol City Council saw enforcement costs fall from around £200,000 to less than £5,000 per year following the provision of a transit site costing £450,000. With the Commission for Race Equality citing estimates of around £18m spent on enforcement action every year, new sites in many areas will effectively pay for themselves in the short to medium term.

“Conversely, even the most effective enforcement team will only be able to apply a sticking plaster to a gaping wound if site provision is inadequate.”

Q3 – Do you consider that
a) we should amend the 2006 regulations to bring the definition of “gypsies and travellers” into line with the proposed definition of “travellers” for planning purposes, and
 b) we should also amend primary legislation to ensure that those who have given up travelling permanently have their needs assessed? If not, why not?

a) No
We believe that to change the definition would be to abandon the principle that local authorities should carry out their functions in a way that serves everyone in their area, since it will prevent them from considering the needs of ethnic Travellers who live in bricks and mortar, however unwillingly.

Furthermore, taken together with the proposed change to planning policy guidance, this in our view amounts to the planned destruction of a culture, and the forced assimilation of ethnic minority groups. Therefore the Government would then be in contravention of Article 5 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which states:
1. The Parties undertake to promote the conditions necessary for persons belonging to national minorities to maintain and develop their culture, and to preserve the essential elements of their identity, namely their religion, language, traditions and cultural heritage.
  1. Without prejudice to measures taken in pursuance of their general integration policy, the Parties shall refrain from policies or practices aimed at assimilation of persons belonging to national minorities against their will and shall protect these persons from any action aimed at such assimilation.
Additionally, this proposal could also be in breach of article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states:
“In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.”

b) No
No meaningful assessment of need could possibly take place in a context where, by refusing to acknowledge people’s ethnicity, the Government prevented needs from being met.

Gypsy and Traveller communities have stressed to us the high importance that they place on being able to live in closely-knit communities in caravans or mobile homes.  One family, for example, told us that when they first moved into a house, their father predicted that it would kill him, and, in their words, “It did.”  In no circumstances will this family ever agree to live in a house again.

Q4 – Do you agree that Planning Policy for Traveller Sites be amended to reflect the provisions in the National Planning Policy Framework that provide protection to these sensitive sites? If not, why not?

Some of the designations mentioned already have sufficiently strong protection.

It is inequitable that developers should be allowed to build huge new developments on the Green Belt (5,600 dwellings approved last year, according to Glenigan Construction Insight) while the small-scale and low impact sites proposed by individual Gypsy families are specially targeted in this planning policy guidance. This is discriminatory.

It is noted that the lack of a 5 year planned supply of sites/pitches is currently one of the most significant material considerations for approval of sites in the Green Belt. If sufficient sites were provided, the problem would not arise. Removing this policy without  first ensuring that need is met by supply will worsen homelessness among Travellers, which is already disproportionately higher than that of non-Travellers.

Q5 – Do you agree that paragraph 23 of Planning Policy for Traveller Sites should be amended to “local authorities should very strictly limit new traveller sites in the open countryside”? If not, why not?

A site in the countryside may be the only land that is both available and affordable for most Travellers, and such a setting is also consistent with their tradition and culture. 

Q6 – Do you agree that the absence of an up-to-date five year supply of deliverable sites should be removed from Planning Policy for Traveller Sites as a significant material consideration in the grant of temporary permission for traveller sites in the areas mentioned above? If not, why not?

Everyone needs to live somewhere, and if local authorities are not providing sufficient sites, Gypsy and Traveller families are left with little choice if they seek to educate their children and care for those with health and social care needs.

Q7 – Do you agree with the policy proposal that, subject to the best interests of the child, unmet need and personal circumstances are unlikely to outweigh harm to the Green Belt and any other harm so as to establish very special circumstances? If not, why not?


The statement about the best interests of the child  at 3.11 is unhelpful, since it could be taken to imply the forced removal of children from their parents and family.

If the best interests of children were to be fully considered, policy should encourage the approval of small-scale family sites, in order that there might be more security for Gypsy and Traveller Families, and any children needing foster parents able to care for them and adequately respect their ethnicity might be found placements within the Gypsy and Traveller community.

We would further point out that, when a Traveller site is established on a derelict site within the Green Belt, there may be a planning gain as opposed to harm to the Green Belt. Roman Road, Mountnessing on the site of a previous eyesore dump is an example.

Q8 – Do you agree that intentional unauthorised occupation should be regarded by decision takers as a material consideration that weighs against the grant of permission? If not, why not?

This proposed planning policy guidance would create a situation in which a family could under no circumstances remain within the law and also plan to provide their own site.  In order to qualify for planning permission for a Traveller site, they would need to be nomadic, which would make any employment insecure, and would militate against the education, health and well-being of their children, as well as leading to unauthorised encampments and constant evictions.  If the family nevertheless managed to save sufficient funds to purchase their own land and settled on it, in order to meet their basic survival needs, as well as following their traditional way of life, they would become ineligible for planning permission.  This is a perverse situation.

It should also be noted that “unauthorised” does not mean “illegal.”  If it is open to the settled population to apply for retrospective planning permission or a certificate of lawful use, this opportunity should also be available to Travellers.

Q9 – Do you agree that unauthorised occupation causes harm to the planning system and community relations? If not, why not?


It is a symptom of the planning system’s failure to meet Travellers’ needs.  As described in the response to question 2, it is poor community relations that lead to unauthorised occupation, not the other way round.

Q10 – Do you have evidence of the impact of harm caused by intentional
unauthorised occupation? (And if so, could you submit them with your response.)

On the contrary, we are aware of a number of peaceful occupations which, although unauthorised, have led to acceptance and support by the local community, and enabled Traveller children to settle and flourish in school.

Q11 – Would amending Planning Policy for Traveller Sites in line with the proposal set out in paragraph 4.16 above help that small number of local authorities in these exceptional circumstances? If not, why not? What other measures can Government take to help local authorities in this situation?

This proposal does not cite any evidence, and would create a perverse incentive to local authorities to argue that their case was exceptional, and they should therefore be able to evade their responsibilities.  We consider that adequate enforcement powers already exist.

Q12 – Are there any other points that you wish to make in response to this consultation, in particular to inform the Government’s consideration of the potential impacts that the proposals in this paper may have on either the traveller community or the settled community?

This proposed policy change would have adverse impacts on disabled and chronically ill people, older people, single women who are carers  and children, particularly children with disabilities. It would also impact disproportionately on women, who are less likely to be able to engage in employment suited to a nomadic lifestyle.

Even more families will be pushed into housing and denied their ethnic culture and way of life.

For the Gypsy and Traveller communities the impact will be that they will need to move onto unauthorised encampments in order to be counted as needing a pitch.  This is likely to have an adverse effect on community relations.  In times when community relations are poor – or poorer than usual – large encampments become more likely, in order to provide protection from perceived external threats. This is likely to further escalate tensions.

For the settled community, the housing crisis will become even more acute, as the settled community seeks to accommodate in bricks and mortar a group of people for whom it is a punishment, rather than a dream, as well as those families who genuinely want to be housed.

Furthermore, we believe this proposed guidance undermines the Government’s own Localism policy, by restricting the discretion of local planning authorities to use local knowledge in creating practical solutions.

Q13 – Do you have any comments on the draft planning guidance for travellers (see Annex A)?

It is our view that the guidance will not to address the historic and severe under-provision of Traveller sites, but will make a difficult situation worse.

The way in which the questions in this consultation have been framed indicates to us a denial of the human rights of Travellers.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


A loss of hope, a loss of aspirations, a loss of identity

The Government's proposed Planning Policy Guidance published on 14th September 2014 deals with planning policy for Traveller sites.  If you thought it was already extremely difficult to gain planning permission for a Traveller site, these proposals limit even further the circumstances in which permission might be granted.

 Most contentious of all is the proposal that nobody can claim to be a Gypsy or Traveller unless they are currently leading a travelling lifestyle. The following are extracts from a briefing paper prepared by Chris Johnson of the Travellers Advice Team and Dr Simon Ruston, Planning Consultant

In a bad season, a nomad’s temptation to stray from his path is irresistible; but the army is waiting for him with sub-machine guns.  ‘The Army’, said my friend, the old khan, ‘has now replaced the lion and the wolf’. 

            Bruce Chatwin - The Songlines (Vintage, 1998)

In our current context we might want to replace the word ‘Army’ with the word ‘Government’. 

Quoted in the Sunday Times on 14 September 2014 (when the consultation paper was published) Andrew George MP, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gypsy Roma Travellers stated that the Government “can’t redefine travellers out of existence.”

This paper is not intended as a formal response to the consultation paper but as a means of pushing around ideas and information in the process of working out how Gypsies, Travellers and their supporters and representatives are going to respond to these disastrous proposals.  In many ways these proposals seem designed to make it impossible for Gypsies and Travellers to obtain planning permission for sites anywhere in England

Bizarrely the Government accepts that the problem of unauthorised encampments and unauthorised developments is created by the lack of adequate pitches and adequate stopping places.  It is useful to have reference to the history of site provision since the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 closed the commons to Gypsies and Travellers and began the process of the closing up of traditional stopping places.  (...) Since the Coalition Government came to power, the following law and policy have had a significant impact on the Gypsy and Traveller community:

-          The Localism Act 2011 amongst other measure curtailed the ability to apply for retrospective planning and revoked the regional strategies that had previously contained pitch targets
-          The Legal Aid, Sentencing andPunishment of Offenders Act (LASPOA) 2012 and subsequent legal aid changes and cuts have had serious implications on the provision of legal aid
-          Planning Policy for Traveller Sites (PPTS) in March 2012 changed the national planning policy and withdrew Circular 01/06
-          The 2005 Temporary Stop Notice (TSN) regulations have been withdrawn meaning that a TSN can be issued for caravans that are a Gypsy’s or Traveller’s home. Failure to comply can mean a fine of up to £20,000
-          Since June 2013 all Gypsy and Traveller planning appeals in the Green Belt have been recovered for decision by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (SSCLG).

These provisions of law and policy have already had a significant detrimental impact on the Gypsy and Traveller community. However, the latest proposals will have even more serious detrimental implications. The Government have presented Gypsies and Travellers who continue to live in caravans with a Catch 22 scenario.  If you travel, you will be hounded from pillar to post.  If you decide that you cannot possibly keep up with this travelling due to the impossibility of the situation and you settle down, you will be told that you should travel.  Our conclusion is that what the Government are really seeking is not integration but assimilation.  They are seeking to drive Gypsies and Travellers into housing and, indeed, the restrictive policies applied by this Government and the failure of this Government to ensure that there is adequate site provision has already led to large numbers of Gypsies and Travellers (much against their will in many cases) moving into bricks and mortar accommodation. 

This amounts to a destruction of a way of life by the back door. 

It will be important to have a look at the statistics that the Government are quoting.  At Appendix 2, we attach the historical count of Gypsy/Traveller caravans.  It will be seen that, since 2000, in general, the numbers on unauthorised sites (covering both unauthorised developments and unauthorised encampments) has been dropping.  Numbers certainly have not been rising despite the propaganda put out by this Government. 

The Government like to paint a picture of a system where the planning system is, in their strange view of things, slanted in favour of Gypsies and Travellers.  In fact, the history mentioned above indicates that it has become more and more difficult for Gypsies and Travellers to obtain authorised sites and the system has not enabled them to do so (obviously we except the situation with regard to the provision of local authority sites between 1970 – when the Caravan Sites Act 1968 duty came into force - and 1994).  In fact, when housing development is required, it is often the case that this is either allowed in the Green Belt or the Green Belt boundary is re-drawn to allow this to occur.  At Appendix 3 we have a paper on the subject of Housing and the Green Belt from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).  This paper shows that national planning guidance is allowing developers to bypass local democracy and gain planning permission for large housing developments in the countryside.  Therefore it would appear that the discrimination in the planning system is against rather than in favour of Gypsies and Travellers in terms of attempting to get sites in the countryside. 

In the Introduction at para 1.2 the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) state:-

Our policy is clear that local authorities are responsible for objectively assessing their own site needs and identifying a suitable 5-year supply of sites to meet their needs, as is consistent with national planning policy as a whole. 

However it is abundantly clear that this will not happen without some active, central oversight and central involvement. 

The Definition of Gypsy and Traveller for the purposes of planning and for the purposes of accommodation needs assessment

The Government propose that the planning definition of ‘travellers’ (as they insist on describing them) should be amended to remove the words “or permanently” to limit it to those who have a nomadic habit of life.  They further propose that the definition for the purposes of accommodation needs assessment should be identical to this new proposed definition.
Bizarrely the government recognises the implications of this policy in the Equalities Statement which accompanies the consultation:

This proposal would impact on those Gypsies and Travellers who have given up travelling permanently for whatever reason, but in particular on the elderly who no longer travel due to reasons related to ill-health or disability. Similarly, it would also impact on children and young people including those with disabilities or special educational needs who use a settled base in order to access education; as well as women who have ceased to travel in order to care for dependents. (sec.3)
To complement the proposals set out above, the Government wishes to seek views on further measures to support those travellers which fall under the proposed new definition in order to facilitate their nomadic habit of life. For example, through the use of conditions which ensure that transit sites are available at certain times of the year for travellers to occupy on a temporary basis. This of course would be a matter for the local authority but may go towards making provision for those travellers who do travel. We are open to views on how we could further facilitate travellers’ nomadic habit of life including its potential effects on the traveller community.

It is not explained how the Government would facilitate a nomadic habit of life.  Transit sites are extremely rare.  Emergency stopping places are non-existent.  Local authorities are, in the vast majority of cases, not willing to identify tolerated sites that do not have planning permission, as shown in the history of this matter (see Appendix 1).  It is only when there is a duty to facilitate the provision of sites that sites will actually be provided.  The Welsh Government have realised this and introduced such a duty in the Housing (Wales) Act 2014.  However, this Westminster Government are cynically moving in the opposite direction in an attempt to drive Gypsies and Travellers into housing. 

If this proposal is introduced, there will inevitably be strong legal challenges to this situation. It would be argued that there is a clear breach of the European Convention on Human Rights in terms of Article 8 ( right to respect for private and family life and home) in conjunction with Article 14 (the discrimination article). It would also be argued that there would be a breach of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. In particular, article 5 states:

1 The Parties undertake to promote the conditions necessary for persons belonging to national minorities to maintain and develop their culture, and to preserve the essential elements of their identity, namely their religion, language, traditions and cultural heritage.

2 Without prejudice to measures taken in pursuance of their general integration policy, the Parties shall refrain from policies or practices aimed at assimilation of persons belonging to national minorities against their will and shall protect these persons from any action aimed at such assimilation.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Romany Creed

Written by the Cranbrook Romanies, 2008
We believe
Jesus love is like a running stream
Flowing to all corners of the world
It flows high and it flows low
It reaches everywhere
Even to the desert
Jesus died for our sins
He is our Lord and saviour
And the only way to eternal life
We believe
The Father sent his only Son
To die for our sins
And we believe Jesus rose on the third day
And we believe there is life after death
Because Jesus conquered death
We believe
When you open your heart to Jesus
You will receive the Holy Spirit
Jesus will be with you every day
Good or bad
Keep your faith
Accept the Son
And you will accept the Father
And the Father will accept you
The Father lives inside the Son
The Son lives in the Father
We live in Jesus
And Jesus lives in us
Don’t matter what you’ve got
Or what you are
Jesus always loves you
And always welcomes you with open arms
You are nothing without Jesus in your life
Because you are not fulfilled without him
Accept Jesus as your Lord and saviour
There is nothing on earth better than being saved
And being re-born
And put into a new life with Christ
The best thing anyone can do
Is to be baptized into the name of Jesus
You have a new life
You sin is gone away
The old is gone
And the new life begins
Following the truth
Of a living person
The way the truth  and the life
When you find the treasure in your heart
You want to find others and tell them
To tell them the good news
That there is light even in the darkest places
We were lost and now we have been found
We were in the dark and now we are in the light
Jesus can turn your life around
Don’t matter what you’ve done
Your heavenly Father loves you
Because he sent his only Son to save us
When you come to God empty handed
Weak and vulnerable
God is then able to fill us and make us strong
Don’t believe in your own way
Gather with others to have fellowship
To remember Jesus
And what he came here for
When you gather together in fellowship
The vine grows stronger
But when you cut yourself off
You die
In the same way, you get lost in darkness
Jesus is like a candle
Shining in the darkest places
There is no storm and no wind
that can blow the candle out 
it only gets brighter
Black can cover anything
But it can’t cover the light of the word
We all have different gifts
That we all use in different ways
Come to your Lord with a joyful heart
Be open
Be as a child
Asking your Father
And your Father will give to you 
Be attentive
Listen to what is being said to you
And he will surely lead you the holy way
We believe that there are two ways to choose from.
One leads to life
And the other leads to death
The road that leads to life is the narrow way of Jesus Christ
God’s love is so high you can’t get over it
So low you can’t get under it
So wide you can’t get round it
Put all these things together and it makes a cross
The cross of Jesus
Jesus told us to make disciples of all people on earth
Baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
We break the bread and drink the wine
To share with one another
The remembrance of Jesus Christ
It is the bread of life to eternal life
And the wine is his blood shed for us
We believe Jesus is coming back.
Praise the Lord and Hallelujah
He is coming to judge the living and the dead
And to make a new heaven and a new earth
To claim his victory
All of his people
Love and respect your neighbor
As you would like your neighbor to love and respect you
We are learning to love and forgive our enemies
As God loves and forgives us all
All things in this world
 God created
The heavens and the earth
You and me

With thanks to Revd. Martin Burrell

Thursday, 28 August 2014

A plea from the Traveller Equality Project


I  run the Traveller Equality Project which works in prison with Gypsies and Irish Travellers. I am getting a number of requests from European Roma for help resources etc. I have just received a letter from two Slovakian Roma.
 In the past I have asked some people working with Roma to provide resources, advice etc to no avail. Anyway, the point is if you have access to resources for Roma which are free please get in touch with me.
 Traveller Equality Project
Irish Chaplaincy in Britain

50-52 Camden Square

Tel: 020 7482 5528

Conn has clarified that anything would be helpful: books, magazines, DVDs. - Jenny

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Churches Network for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma

The objects of the Churches Network for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma are:

  •   to work for harmony, understanding and co-operation between communities, churches and Gypsy, Traveller and Roma people

  •                          to work with Gypsies, Travellers, Showmen and Roma to promote a better and wider understanding of the history, culture and lifestyles of Gypsies, Showmen, Travellers and Roma

  • to seek to understand, bear witness to and challenge the prejudices and structural injustices which marginalise, exclude and endanger Gypsies, Travellers and Roma people
  •     to ensure a voice for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma in our churches, and to encourage and support Christian vocations in those minority communities
  •      to encourage churches to embrace the cultural identity of Gypsies, Travellers and Roma and the gifts they bring to the Christian church, as they prefer to express them in their worship

    If you share any of these aims, you are very welcome to join our facebook group, and to contribute to harmony and understanding.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Romani Resistance Day, May 16th

Romani Community Care, I hope you don't mind if I give your facebook post space here:
16 May 1944: Romani Resistance Day

Romani Resistance - 16 May 1944
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It seems that the denial of genocide and the denial of racism are communicating vessels. An ethnic group whose genocide is denied continues to be targeted with racism.
Conversely, the recognition of genocide can start a healing process in society that can help it overcome racism. The Romani Holocaust, called the "porajmos" (destruction) in Romanes, is a part of history that is not only forgotten today, it is even denied.
We do not know much about this aspect of the Holocaust. There are just a few books about it, and very little historical research.
Be that as it may, some forgotten parts of the Romani Holocaust really deserve commemoration. Romani people did not always play the role of passive victims during that era.
What happened on 16 May 1944? In the extermination camp of Auschwitz II – Birkenau, section BIIe was called the "Gypsy Camp" (Zigeuner Lager).
Some of the Romani people transported into the hell of Auschwitz by the Nazis were not gassed immediately upon arrival, but were placed in the Zigeuner Lager. BIIe was a "mixed" camp, which meant children, men and women were imprisoned there together.
The Romani prisoners were forced into slave labor, observed and subjected to medical tests, and tortured. Dr Josef Mengele of the SS, a sadistic psychopath known as the "Angel of Death", chose Romani individuals, most of them children, to subject to perverse experiments.
During the night of 2 August and the early morning of 3 August 1944, all of the prisoners of the camp, without exception, were murdered in the gas chambers. Because of this known, official history, 2 August has been commemorated as Romani Holocaust Day.
The Nazis had actually wanted to close BIIe and murder its Romani prisoners in the gas chambers earlier than that, on 16 May 1944. At the time there were more than 6 000 Romani prisoners there.
On 15 May, the underground resistance movement in the camp warned the Roma of what the Nazis were planning. On the morning of 16 May, the Romani prisoners did not show up for the usual morning roll call and ceased cooperating with the SS guards.
The Roma barricaded themselves into their shanties. They had broken into an equipment warehouse and armed themselves with hammers, pickaxes and shovels, taking apart the wooden sections of the bunks they slept on to make wooden stakes.
The children collected rocks. When the SS guards entered the camp in the late afternoon to take the Roma to the gas chambers, they began to fight for their lives.
The Roma fought to the death. Children, men, and women all fought.
Auschwitz had never experienced anything like it before and would not experience it again. There were losses on both sides.
The SS were in shock because they had completely failed to anticipate this resistance. Concerned they might lose more men and that the uprising might spread to other parts of Auschwitz, they retreated from camp BIIe.
No Roma died in the gas chambers that day. The Nazis subsequently put the prisoners of BIIe on a starvation diet.
On 23 May 1944, the Nazis moved 1 500 of the strongest Romani prisoners to Auschwitz I, many of whom were then sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. On 25 May 1944, 82 Romani men were transported to the Flossenburg concentration camp and 144 young Romani women were sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
Less than 3 000 Romani prisoners remained in the family camp at BIIe, most of them children. On 2 August 1944, the Nazis gassed them all to death in gas chamber V, although the Roma fought back on that dark night as well.
Glory and honor to the memory of these Romani heroes! You can find more information about 16 May 1944 on the following websites:
Documentation and Culture Center of the German Sinti and Roma

Everyone - Group for International Cooperation on Human Rights Culture
Miroslav Brož, Konexe, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

Sunday, 6 April 2014

April 8th is International Roma Day

International Roma Day recalls and celebrates the contribution of the Roma peoples to European and world cultures,

as well as remembering their history

their experiences of suffering