Travellers 'forgotten about' during coronavirus crisis
Almost 200 traveller caravans were pitched on sites across the Black Country and Staffordshire shortly before lockdown started – with members pleading with officials not to evict them during the pandemic.
Members of the traveller community say they have been forgotten about by the Government during coronavirus, amid concerns the group are at increased risk from the disease.
They have called for evictions to be halted while the pandemic continues.
The latest Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government snapshot shows 182 traveller caravans moved on to sites across the region in January – many were allowed to be there but some were illegally camped.
A report from human rights group Doctors of the World found UK travellers, like all “excluded people”, are at greater risk of being exposed to the coronavirus and are struggling to access healthcare services.
It noted that traveller workers have been heavily impacted by job losses, while children are missing out on education due to “digital exclusion”.
The Traveller Movement charity said it is hard to estimate the impact of the coronavirus on Gypsy, Roma and traveller communities, but that existing health problems could get worse.
Chelsea McDonagh, the group’s education policy and campaigns officer, said GRT communities like hers have been forgotten about.
She said: “Those who are still roadside are not protected by the weak government guidance and as a result are still being moved on, whilst access to education is not happening for all GRT children.
“This pandemic has shown, once again, that GRT communities are not a priority for the Government and it is much easier to forget about them rather than meet their needs.”
Figures show that Walsall saw 108 caravans move into the area just before lockdown started – although all had permission to be there.
In Wolverhampton 13 caravans moved in at the same time, but 11 of these did not have authorisation to be camped where they were.
In Sandwell 16 caravans were camped out in the borough, all authorised, and in Dudley it was 26 – with five being unauthorised.
Cannock Chase saw 41 traveller vans move in at the beginning of the year – but all were legally allowed to park where they settled.
In Stafford only two caravans appeared, but they were not allowed to be there – the same in South Staffordshire with two illegal encampments.
The Traveller Movement is an award-winning leading national charity committed to the fulfilment of human rights for ethnic minority Gypsy Roma and traveller people.
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