Gypsy and Traveller communities still face racism and xenophobia. The government must stop fuelling it

People shelter from the rain during the Appleby Horse Fair. The annual gathering for Gypsy, Romany and Traveller communities dates back to 1685: Getty

Gypsy and Traveller communities face some of the greatest inequalities in our society. Earlier this year, the Women and Equalities Committee published a damning report pointing to the collective failures of successive governments to tackle these inequalities. This is paired with repeated failures to invest in site provision for authorised encampments, furthering marginalisation.

We’re alarmed at steps that will not only entrench this position in society, but criminalise it.

A Home Office proposal to ramp up police powers regarding trespass would have a devastating impact. The police already have ample powers to deal with the issues the Home Office claims to be concerned about, such as property damage, noise and littering. It also neglects to address the main cause of unauthorised encampments – the government’s failure to identify land for sites and stopping. Rather than tackle endemic social inequalities, the government is looking to criminalise activities caused by its own lack of action.

Just as alarming, the language used by the Home Office at the launch of a consultation on these powers was divisive and dehumanising, and has no place in our society.

When home secretary Priti Patel announced this consultation she said that the public “want their communities protected”.

This shameful “othering” of members of the Gypsy and Traveller communities from the wider “public” is both dangerous and discriminatory. It feeds racism and xenophobia.

The rhetoric of othering – which seeks to exclude and dehumanise – cannot be left unchecked. Complex social problems aren’t solved by cementing divisions and criminalising whole communities.

Abbie Kirkby Advice and Policy Manager, Friends, Families and Travellers

Ali Harris Chief executive, Equally Ours

Clare Collier Advocacy director, Liberty

Debbie Kennedy CEO, London Gypsy Travellers

Jim Burnside Chair, Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Groups

Josephine O’Driscoll CEO, Gypsy and Traveller Empowerment Hertfordshire

Marc Willers QC Garden Court Chambers

Mia Hasenson-Gross Executive director, Rene Cassin

Dr Omar Khan Director, Runnymede Trust

Dr Siobhan Spencer MBE National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups

Yvonne MacNamara CEO, Traveller Movement

Justified alarm

A bleak warning indeed from 11,000 scientists that the climate crisis will bring “untold suffering”. It is right and prudent for Britain to take action to help reduce global greenhouse gases, but what if bigger polluters, like America and China, do little or nothing? It will be an unmitigated disaster with all good things coming to an end.

In this eventuality, we need to have a worst-case scenario survival plan to provide the basics of food, water, shelter, warmth and protection.

This is not alarmist. What is alarming is that many politicians think the UK general election is about Brexit and international trade. Climate breakdown will put an end to all that.

Geoff Naylor
Winchester

Heads in the sand

Brexit may be classic divide and rule, but pretty much everyone is sick of it now, be they Leave or Remain.

I think that many politicians, especially the Tories, and a lot of the mainstream media, fail to understand that there are just as many people out there who think that the climate crisis is the number one issue on their doorstep, as it underscores everything, including all future spending pledges.

You know, no Brexit on a dead planet. I guess many people realise that you can’t bury your head in the Brexit sand forever if coastal erosion keeps sweeping it away.

Then there’s the NHS. It’s the one thing that truly unites us as a nation. It’s the three letters that you can scribble onto the side of a bus that can convince you to jump off a cliff. Do you really think that the majority of the people in this country trust Donald Trump and Bojo not to carve it up in a post Brexit trade deal with the US?

I mean, what else can Britain possibly plonk on the Oval Office table once it walks away from all its major trading partners? Apples? Scottish shortbread? Come on!

Neil Goodwin
London

Get real

If climate change is the largest threat facing us, the measures necessary and their costs require truth from politicians professing to present solutions.

The Tories have avoided every policy opportunity to develop strategy and implement measures for as long as can be remembered and especially in the recent past terms of their government. As with Grenfell, they just kick the politically unsavoury can down the road. Difficult to treat. That is a term used for most houses and industrial or commercial buildings in the UK that require insulation upgrades to become energy efficient and healthy to live in.

Government policy has created unhealthy and non-future-proof homes for decades. The mooted updates to building regulations appear likely to kick the can down the road again – condemning anyone building or improving their building to current standards to having to do it all again in 10 or 15 years. There are more studies than you can shake a stick at that make it clear that doing it once, in a futureproof way, is the cheapest long term solution. The government itself talks about taking a “life cycle cost assessment (LCCA)” approach to such measures – but then doesn’t legislate for the actions it recommends.

Labour talks about loft insulation and double glazing – neither is adequate to achieve what is necessary as most heat is then lost through walls and floors and double glazing takes about 20 years to achieve energy payback. There is nothing wrong with double glazing or 20 years’ payback – in fact you probably need to allow 30 years for the investment required.

The Lib Dems talk about £15bn to treat 26 million houses. According to my calculator that is about £5,500 per house. Bringing terraced homes (cheap to treat) in Nottingham up to the required standard has cost between £40k and £80k per house. This is like kitchen and bathroom adverts saying you can have a new one for £5k. No, you can’t – at least not anything an estate agent or prospective purchaser will want.

On the most critical issue of our time, politicians are either uninformed or willfully manipulating the truth. The times for lying and telling people what they want to hear are over. We need truth and proper leadership. Now. And an explanation of who is going to do the work – we don’t have enough trained people to do what they say is necessary, never mind the true scale of the job.

Michael Mann
Shrewsbury

There’s a good (avoca)dog

I wonder who told Charlotte Cripps that avocados are poisonous if eaten by dogs. I had two dogs when I was growing avocados in Brazil and they would look for the fruit which had fallen on the ground and were very adept at opening the fruit and eating it!

John Barham
London

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