Travellers will resist eviction from English camp: spokesman

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The residents of Britain's largest illegal traveller settlement on Sunday vowed to resist eviction as bailiffs prepared to clear the site.

Dale Farm resident Kathleen McCarthy, a spokesman for the traveller community, urged officials from Basildon Council in southeast England not to treat them "as animals" as Monday's eviction deadline loomed.

"We are living on a hope that they will realise we are not animals, we are humans," she said at a press conference on Sunday.

McCarthy promised that residents would chain themselves to their property for "as long as it takes" as they fight to remain at the six-acre (2.4-hectare) camp.

The residents, drawn from the Irish traveller community, own the plots of land but do not have planning permission for the dwellings erected on them.

Around 240 people are believed to be living on the 51 plots, but will be forced to leave on Monday after losing a 10-year legal battle last week.

Basildon Council is preparing to evict them in an operation it estimates will cost £8 million ($12.6 million, 9.2 million euros) and the travellers have refused the council's offer to be rehoused.

Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave and a former UN official have both backed a campaign to block the eviction.

Tony Ball, leader of the council, said he was "very concerned" by claims that "so-called supporters appear to be calling the shots".

"We wanted to do everything possible to keep residents updated about the operation and to listen to any concerns and address any final requirements," he said Sunday.

"We are very concerned that tension has increased and it may now make our job of clearing the site in a safe and orderly manner even more difficult," he added.

The council said that around 12 families had already left the site on Sunday. Those that remained were busy strengthening defences in preparation for the bailiffs' arrival.

© 2011 AFP

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