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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 10:56 GMT
Travellers' Bill proposes new rights
The research unit points to unchallenged racism against Gypsies
A draft Bill drawn up by lawyers at the University of Wales and designed to end discrimination against gypsies and travellers in Britain is published on Thursday.

It proposes legislation to protect the rights of the groups which have some of the highest rates of infant mortality and degree of social exclusion.

They think gypsies and travellers are dirty and criminal, but none of these things can be substantiated

Rachel Morris, Traveller Law Research Unit

The Bill was drawn up after nearly five years of research by a specialist unit within the law school at Cardiff University.

The Traveller Law Research Unit claims up to a third of the estimated 300,000 travellers in the UK do not have any safe or legal locations in which to stay in as they are kept on the move by police and local authorities.

The proposed law would create a commission which would work towards creating sites for travellers without having to rely on the political will of councils.

Rachel Morris, who spearheaded the work, said: "Travelling is a legal and legitimate way of life.

"But if a gypsy needs a site to live on they often have to buy their own and apply for planning permission, which is often refused due to local opposition.

A traveller child playng on a disused railway line
Travellers have one of the highest rate of infant mortality

"There aren't enough available sites. Many are being closed down by local authorities and those that do exist are either next to motorways and in laybys."

She said gypsies and travellers suffer bad press, racism and discrimination because of a very small minority who enrage local communities with antisocial behaviour, such as leaving sites strewn with litter.

But Ms Morris said: "People don't understand.

They think gypsies and travellers are dirty and criminal, but none of these things can be substantiated against the majority of the travelling population.

"The government don't challenge this view and don't see the racism against travellers.

"It's still very acceptable to be horrible about them. They are invisible until they are seen as a problem."

The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust funded the technical drafting of the Bill.

See also:

27 Jun 01 | Scotland
Gypsy travellers win status move
23 Aug 99 | UK Politics
Straw renews attack on bogus gypsies
20 Sep 99 | Wales
New row over evicted gypsies
28 Nov 01 | Scotland
Travellers 'losing out' in schools
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