Travellers in Europe's largest camp lose eviction battle

31st August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Travellers living in Europe's largest unauthorised camp on Wednesday failed in a last-ditch legal bid to prevent their eviction from an illegal site in southeast England.

The 80 families of travellers, a traditionally nomadic people of Irish descent, face being thrown off the Dale Farm camp in Essex after their lawyers failed to secure a temporary injunction against local authorities at the end of a 10-year fight.

They had received high-profile support from Oscar-winning British actress Vanessa Redgrave, as well as campaigners from Sweden, Italy, Belgium and France who arrived at the site over the weekend.

The last-minute legal case centred on one of the travellers, 72-year-old Mary Flynn, who suffers from breathing problems.

But judge Kenneth Parker at London's High Court ruled in favour of local authorities after they gave assurances that they would review fresh medical evidence relating to Flynn before proceeding against her.

The deadline for people to leave the site voluntarily expires at midnight Wednesday, and a multi-million-pound operation to evict the travellers is expected to start later in September.

The site is made up of caravans and more permanent chalet-style homes.

Local authority Basildon Council had already won a court fight in 2009 to evict the travellers, and Parker agreed with the previous decision, saying it was of "crucial significance."

The judge denied leave to appeal although lawyers for the travellers, who trace their roots back to County Limerick, southern Ireland, can still apply directly to the court of appeal.

Campaigner Gratton Puxon, based at Dale Farm, said he was dismayed at the court's decision but hoped that alternative sites could be found.

"Mrs Flynn is just one of several seriously ill residents and we had hoped for concessions for people in that position," he said.

But Basildon Council welcomed the decision.

"Direct action to clear Dale Farm is a last resort for the council and we take it reluctantly," said council leader Tony Ball.

"But after almost 10 years of legal wrangling and exhausting the judicial process the travellers have left us with absolutely no choice."

© 2011 AFP

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