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Dale Farm Traveller Eviction 'Not Based On 'Race', Council Insists, As Campaigners Fight Decision

Basildon Council has rejected the accusation that its decision to evict families from Britain's largest traveller site is based on their "lifestyle or ethnicity".

The council in Essex plans to evict the more than 240 people who live on the six-acre Dale Farm site next month after a decade long dispute.

On Tuesday Vanessa Redgrave said the eviction of travellers would breach the UK's obligations under international human rights law.

The actress and Unicef goodwill ambassador, who has long campaigned against the decision, said she was "appalled that such an eviction can be upheld by our government."

"The UK signed and ratified the UN convention on the rights of the child. I am certain that the eviction of the Dale Farm traveller families is illegal under international, mandatory, human rights conventions," she said.

But councillor Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, said those being evicted were being treated exactly the same way as any other citizen and insisted the clearance had "absolutely nothing" to do with the travellers' "choice of lifestyle or background".

"The council has spent the last 10 years attempting to find a peaceful solution to the illegal site at Dale Farm. A forced clearance has always been a reluctant last resort for us, but the travellers have left us with little option after exhausting the legal process.

He added: "It is important to remember that this is at heart a planning dispute about an illegal development on green belt land. It has absolutely nothing to do with the travellers' choice of lifestyle or ethnicity, and they are being treated in exactly the same way as any other citizen.

"Those who truly have the travellers' interests at heart would serve them better by encouraging Dale Farm residents to comply with the 28 Day Notice and leave the site peacefully."

But the Gypsy Council has accused the local authority of turning a planning dispute into an issue of race.

Joseph Jones, the secretary of the Gypsy Council, told The Huffington Post UK: "It is a planning dispute, but it's been turned into more of an issue of race than planning, it's all about the fact that it's a Gypsy site and there are these travellers there,"he said.

"The council has let down the community by not fulfilling its duty of care to provide enough places for Gypsies and travellers to live within its district."

As well as attracting the high profile support of Redgrave, the residents of the site have welcomed activists from all over the world including Sweden and Italy to help them protest against the planned eviction.