The criminalisation of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities’ way of life has gone largely underreported. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 is set to dramatically reduce the rights of GRT people to exercise their nomadic culture, by making trespass a criminal offence and increasing the powers of the police to seize property where individuals reside. The Minority Rights Group states this racist law is the culmination of centuries of discrimination that will leave these minority groups even more excluded.
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities are nomadic minority ethnic groups that have been part of British society since at least the 16th century, with an estimate of approximately 300,000 currently residing in the UK today. A survey carried out by The Traveller Movement in 2017, 91 per cent of respondents had experienced discrimination and 77 per cent had experienced hate speech or a hate crime in the UK. The 2019 Committee Report also found that traveller people have a life expectancy of 10-12 years less than the general population, with higher rates of infant mortality and maternal death, and around 42 per cent of English Gypsies are affected by long term health conditions (as opposed to 18 per cent for the general population).
The European Human Right Commission sets the context: ” Only a few thousand Roma in Germany survived the Holocaust and the Nazi concentration camps. They faced enormous difficulties when trying to build their lives again, having lost so many of their family members and relatives, and having had their properties destroyed or confiscated. Many had their health ruined. For years, when some tried to obtain compensation, their claims were rejected.
For the survivors, no justice came with the post-Hitler era. Significantly, the mass killing of Roma people was not an issue at the Nürnberg trial. The genocide of the Roma was hardly recognised in public discourse.
The history of European repression against the Roma precedes the Nazi and fascist era. In fact, it goes back several hundred years – following the Roma migration from the Indian subcontinent. The Roma were the outsiders used as scapegoats when things went wrong and the locals did not want to take responsibility. The methods of repression have varied over time and have included enslavement, enforced assimilation, expulsion, internment and mass killings.”
Priti Patel’s Bill disgustingly continues this tradition. And Labour? As BLL reported last month, Labour’s own misnamed Shadow Equalities Minister shamefully exploits the same prejudices.