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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 06:18 GMT 07:18 UK
Gypsy legal action 'waste of money'
Gypsy boy, camp site
Gypsies face difficult problems, say researchers
Councils and police forces across the UK have been wasting up to 18m each year on evicting gypsies and travellers from illegal encampments, according to research.

Researchers at Cardiff University claim in a new book that the eviction costs should be used to spend on legal camps for those affected.

Cardiff's Traveller Law research unit estimates that a third of the 300,000 gypsies and travelling people were on unauthorised sites, often lacking access to water or toilets.

Gypsy caravans
A better deal for gypsies is sought

Frequently, there are ugly scenes to evict travellers from illegal sites.

In 1999, 100 police officers, bailiffs and council officials moved in to evict gypsies from a 13-year-old site at Croesnewydd, Wrexham, north Wales. The process involved gaining a costly High Court notice.

Rachel Morris who helped write the new book says it costs at least as much as it would to provide more legal sites.

"Different councils would tell you it is good value to have a zero tolerance policy, because that is what local people want, but nonetheless it is not the best use of council funds."


Many sites that exist are either next to motorways and in laybys

Rachel Morris, Traveller Law unit

Ms Morris was involved earlier this year in drawing up a draft Bill, giving better rights to travellers.

The proposed legislation would create a commission to work towards creating sites for travellers without having to rely on councils.

The Traveller Law unit has spent five years looking into social exclusion and deprivation experienced by travellers and gypsies.

Eviction

Ms Morris added that if a gypsy needed a site to live on they often had to buy their own and apply for planning permission, which is often refused due to local opposition.

"There aren't enough available sites," she said.

"Many are being closed down by local authorities and those that do exist are either next to motorways and in laybys."

Local authorities have said when they evict they are acting in support of local ratepayers angered by illegal camping, and the illegal dumping which often goes with it.

Many gypsies and travellers are now settled on sites but say they miss the freedom of movement which their parents and grandparents had.

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Rachel Morris, researcher
"There are human and social costs and they are mounting up."

More news from south east Wales
See also:

27 Jun 01 | Scotland
23 Aug 99 | Politics
20 Sep 99 | Wales
28 Nov 01 | Scotland
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