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June is Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month - lets applaud politicians who lead by example

Date: 05 June 2020  

It's June and the start of another Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month. On Monday in a heartening display of solidarity, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan tweeted his support for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. What followed his tweet was a slew of racist comments and disparaging remarks from members of the public, many expressing their disdain at the Mayor for showing his support. While anti-Traveller rhetoric is nothing new, it does seem like these past few months has been one disheartening incident after another, which makes us wonder: is 2020 an open season on Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller communities? This comes at a time when Black people are, rightfully so, discussing the appalling racism they are experiencing daily with the murder and policing of Black people, as well as the structural racism which is resulting in the overrepresentation of covid-19 related deaths. It is important that we challenge racism and discrimination in all of its forms. Groups like Operation Black Vote, and Black Lives Matter are challenging these toxic, racist narratives, and it’s important that we do the same. 

Gypsy, Roma Traveller (GRT) history month was established in Britain in 2008 as a way of raising awareness of GRT communities and their contributions to society, and to offset negative stereotyping and prejudices.  Since schools don't teach anything about Gypsies and Travellersthe majority of people get their information from the media, which is 99% negative. While organisations like the Traveller Movement develop resources and attempt to offset negative narrativesGRT communities continue to experience extreme levels of social exclusion, discrimination and demonisation. 

Political leaders are often the cause of racism against Gypsy and Traveller communities. In fact, the Mayor is an outlier and instead leads by example by showing his support for GRT communities, as many in politics cannot be relied upon to do the same. Quite often it is the lazy, discriminatory or racist throwaway comments by an MP our councilor that leads to the avalanche of racist bile against GRT communities. In fact, racist hate speech by politicians is so frequent that last year thTraveller Movement launched new campaign with charity, Rene Cassin asking politicians to cut out hate speech in politics altogetherIt is astounding that we need a campaign at all, as politicians should lead by example and set a tone that is respectful, inclusive and free from discrimination, however this has not been the case.   

While a history month is no panacea to overturn hundreds of years of discrimination, clearly it is one way of highlighting positive contributions and fight back against anti-Traveller rhetoricAnd it's needed now more than ever. In the last few months GRT communities have been hit hard, first by the Home Office consultation to criminalise trespass, then by Covid-19 and then in April by Channel 4 with the airing of Dispatches – the Truth about Traveller Crime. Although harmful media portrayals of Gypsies and Travellers is nothing new, programmes like these often stoke underlying tensions and give permission to the general public to unleash vile comments such as those calling for mass sterilization of Gypsies and Travellersor for Travellers to be guinea pigs for a coronavirus vaccine. This appalling narrative is sadly nothing new, but it is dangerous and requires a serious response.  

 

What can be done? 

Public authorities can learn more about their Public Sector Equality Duty, and seek out unconscious bias training Supporters can show their solidarity online by re-tweeting positive messages and by using the hashtag #GRTsolidarity  

Racist tweets can be reported on social media platforms, and we can call out others who are openly racist. Encourage your peers to do the same, and support positive platforms like GRT organisations on social media 

More Gypsies and Travellers can register to vote and hold their polticians to account. To learn more, take a look at our Operation Traveller Vote page.  

You can write to your MP using one of our templates asking them to endorse anti-racism campaigns like Operation Report Hate. You can also ask politicians and councillors to sign the Cut It Out pledge to call out racist rhetoric in parliament, or online and show their support with all BME communities.  

Or, like Mayor of London Sadiq Khan politicians can show true leadership and allocate resources, thus elevating the community and showing respect and tolerance for all. This is worth applauding 

 

Education policy officer, Chelsea McDonagh said the following 

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month is an opportunity celebrate on the histories of our peoples and their contributions to this countrywhich are often not spoken about, particularly within our schools and classrooms. It is an opportunity to challenge the negative discourse surrounding Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people and encourage a more balanced and nuanced understanding and discourseAt a time when covid-19 is hitting all communities hard, it is imperative that we stand together to challenge anti-Traveller rhetoric 

 

Ends  

 
Contact details: 

E: Policymanager@travellermovement.org.uk  

Tel: 0207 607 2002 

W: www.travellermovement.org.uk  

To learn more about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History month visit Traveller Movement website:  https://travellermovement.org.uk/campaigns/gypsy-roma-and-traveller-history-month 
 

 

 

Coronavirus in prisons: Traveller Movement supports proposed legal action by The Howard League and the Prison Reform Trust

Last Friday, our colleagues at The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust took an unprecedented step and sent a formal letter before claim to the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland. We know this action would not have been taken lightly.

First, we want to thank these organisations for continuing to raise the important issue of how the Coronavirus pandemic is impacting the prison population, affecting staff, inmates, all of their families, friends and loved ones.

Despite commitments made by the MoJ, earlier in April, progress to reduce the overcrowded prison population has been too slow and, for this reason, we add our voice to the growing concerns.

Second, as highlighted in the blog in the April edition of our newsletter, Spotlight, unless more action is taken to reduce the prison population across all estates, especially among those who are most vulnerable to Coronavirus, the consequences will be dire.

Yvonne MacNamara, CEO of the Traveller Movement: We know Coronavirus is having a disproportionate impact on people from BAME groups; we know people from BAME groups, including people from the GRT ethnic groups are over represented in the prison population. We do not want to see these negative trends replicated within custodial settings. We are urging the MoJ to address these issues, before it’s too late.

 

ENDS

 

Contacts

 

Patricia Stapleton, policy manager

Policymanager@travellermovement.org.uk

 

W: https://travellermovement.org.uk/

  

Notes to Editor

 

* The Traveller Movement (TM) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. TM is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion.

The Traveller Movement welcomes expansion to the early release scheme

Following our statement last week welcoming the planned temporary early release of low risk pregnant women and women in Mother and Baby Units, on Saturday the MoJ announced an expansion to the early release scheme. 

 

Over the next few weeks, approximately 3,000 inmates will be released early. It will apply to those who have been assessed as low risk, are non-violent, not a sex offender, not a security risk and, are within two months of their release date. They will be subject to electronic monitoring (tag).

 

We add our voice to our colleagues in the Criminal Justice System (CJS), who have called for effective measures to support everyone been released early by making sure they have safe and stable accommodation and can access Universal Credit.

 

The MoJ announcement can be read in full here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/measures-announced-to-protect-nhs-from-coronavirus-risk-in-prisons

 

 

CEO of the Traveller Movement Yvonne MacNamara said: We welcome these new measures and we recognise this will be a big task for the CJS to safely manage, however, we believe it is necessary in these unprecedented times as it will help protect the safety of inmates, staff and reduce pressure on the NHS. We also hope that, despite the challenging circumstances, we are gradually beginning to establish more creative, safe and sustainable methods for alternatives to custody, which in the long run can only be a good thing, including for groups who are currently over represented in the youth and adult prison estates. Finally, we send our sincere condolences to everyone affected by the sad deaths of Bovil Peter and Patrick Beckford, the two members of prison staff at HMP Pentonville who both displayed symptoms of Covid19.

 

 

ENDS

 

 

Contacts

 

Patricia Stapleton, policy manager

 

Policymanager@travellermovement.org.uk

 

 

 

T: 020 7607 2002

W: https://travellermovement.org.uk/

 

 

 

Notes to Editor

 

* The Traveller Movement (TM) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. TM is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion. www.travellermovement.org.uk

Who's telling the truth? Traveller Movement’s response to Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches: The Truth about Traveller Crime’

Press Release

Date: 17th April 2020

 

On Thursday the 16th April we watched in utter dismay Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches: The Truth about Traveller Crime’. The programme was highly critical of Gypsy and Traveller communities and made a number of sensationalist statements that only fuel and reinforces stereotypical racist tropes about Gypsy and Traveller people.

As an organisation that works to promote the rights and social inclusion of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, we are deeply disturbed at the divisive and racist rhetoric used in the programme’s narrative to malign an entire community. The truth certainly was not on Channel 4’s agenda last night.

A number of claims in relation to criminal activity in the Traveller community were made by the programme, but the broadcast failed to properly evidence those spurious claims. Instead, the programme relied on weak and unsubstantiated data to falsely imply a cause-and-effect relationship between Traveller site locations and crime rates. Further, when the Traveller Movement requested the raw data on which the programme relied, Channel 4 refused to share it. It also failed to consult with the experts or organisations working with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities to add balance.  The National Police Chiefs’ Council were not consulted and called the broadcast an “appalling” and “sensationalised” programme and stated “there is no evidence that links higher crime levels to Traveller sites nor do we have ‘no go’ sites”.

Let’s just replace the word ‘Traveller’ with any other ethnic minority to reveal just how racist this programme is.

The programme and its producers have demonstrated a complete disregard for impartial and accurate reporting and instead have resorted to the tired damaging stereotypical trope that  “Travellers equals crime”.

 

Chair of the Traveller Movement, Pauline Anderson OBE: I am absolutely appalled at the misuse of my interview in this sensationalist TV show. At a time of national crisis when broadcasters should be bringing people together, they are instead sowing division and leaving my community vulnerable to hate crime and abuse. It’s an absolute disgrace to journalism. We expect more from Channel 4.

 

Founder of the Gypsy, Roma Traveller Police Association, Jim Davies: Show some sensationalized footage of crimes you’d find on deprived housing estates up and down the country, add in some statistics that would crumble under the slightest scrutiny, get unsubstantiated comments from a police officer who isn’t brave enough to show his face, and completely ignore the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association. I have no idea what the point of that programme was, but it wasn’t to tell the truth.

 

Advisory Committee of the Traveller Movement member, Professor Colin Clark: What was most disappointing about the programme, aside from the blatant anti-Traveller and anti-Irish agenda that was evident, was the skewed data and flawed methodology used to support the assertion that there is a demonstrated link between the geography of Traveller sites and spikes in local crime rates. It needs to be made clear that correlation does not equal causation and the producers were guilty of this on several occasions. It would be very helpful to see the raw data and methodology used by the production team for this programme so that the interpretation and analysis that was broadcast on air can be independently and objectively interrogated.

 

The Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association: Having watched Dispatches last night, the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association believe that the programme was racist, unbalanced and extremely offensive to the Gypsy and Traveller Community. We were disgraced by the content of it and have already seen an increase in the prejudice our community faces as a result. The Association would like to ask NPCC lead for GRT communities to support a national review into the service provision by police to GRT communities. This review should focus on identifying and eliminating internal systematic institutional racism and bias. The need for this is not only evidenced by the Traveller Movement report into relationships between GRT and Police but also the fact a uniformed police officer on national television felt it was acceptable and safe to be openly racist. His remarks show a complete lack of understanding of the complexities that exist in community policing and indeed policing today. No officer should fail to understand their role is to protect and serve all communities of this country. This is already having a profound impact on our own GRT officers and staff, and more importantly the community as a whole.

 

ENDS

 

Contacts

Yvonne MacNamara, CEO

E: Yvonne@travellermovement.org.uk

T: 07961 432 074

 

Patricia Stapleton, policy manager

e: Policymanager@travellermovement.org.uk

W: https://travellermovement.org.uk/

 

Notes to Editor

* The Traveller Movement (TM) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. TM is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion.

*View report: Policing by consent: Understanding and improving relations between Gypsies, Roma, Irish Travellers and the police’:

https://travellermovement.org.uk/criminal-justice?download=49:jun-2018-policing-by-consent-understanding-and-improving-relations-between-gypsies-roma-irish-travellers-and-the-police

Open letter to the Department for Education: Don’t further marginalise Gypsy and Irish Traveller school pupils

The Traveller Movement, ACERT and others have written to Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson asking that Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller school pupils receive targeted  support during the Covid-19 pandemic. Signed by leading academics, race equality organisations and others, the letter reiterates sector wide concerns that GRT pupils will be further marginalised in their education due to digital exclusion and low grade predictions.

 

Dear Right Hon. Gavin Williamson MP,

RE: Covid-19 and Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller school children

We are writing to raise our concerns that children from Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller backgrounds will be especially disadvantaged in their educational attainment during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are concerned at the lack of national policy pertaining to the educational needs of certain vulnerable groups, and we consider that without specific guidance these groups will further slip through the cracks.

Whilst schools have remained open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers, and rightly so, we fear that children from recognised disadvantaged backgrounds[1], such as Gypsies, Roma and Irish Travellers (GRT), will completely miss out on their education in these few short months. This will put them further behind their peers, and could lead to many simply not returning to education, particularly those in Key Stages 3 and 4. We therefore urge the Department to implement a strategy aimed at ensuring GRT pupils have access to suitable materials, but also to mobile data and, where required, to laptops and digital solutions which will their enable their learning to continue throughout this period.

The specific issues

We are concerned that the Department’s current guidance to schools[2] does not explicitly reference those with limited or no digital access. Additionally, due to a lack of clear national policy, home education provision and resources seem to vary from school to school. We are aware that most schools rely on online learning platforms for parents to access work for children to do at home. However, this will present a challenge for many GRT children who face digital exclusion and who may not have access to a laptop or broadband at home. They might also have the additional disadvantage of having parents with language barriers, literacy issues and/or poor access to educational resources.

Specifically these issues include:

  1. Literacy, attainment, exclusions and outcomes - GRT pupils are already disadvantaged in their educational attainment. They have the highest rates of school exclusion, the poorest attainment and are the least likely to leave school with formal qualifications. They should be considered for extra tuition or support at this time.
  2. Grade predictions - this will have a negative impact on GRT as teachers already have low expectations of these pupils. This will affect their final grades, which are likely to be under-predicted. Additionally, many children are not likely to return to school, as they will have missed significant time off from formal education.
  3. Caring duties - many families may be more vulnerable to the virus because of financial insecurity and impracticability of isolation. Children may take caring roles if adults fall ill. This will also affect their ability to learn.  
  4. Digital exclusion - this affects many families. GRT parents, whose own educational experiences may have been inadequate, will find it difficult to support their children learning at home (particularly without online access). 

 Actions that need to be taken:

  • As recommended by the IPPR[3], the Department for Education (DfE) should work with schools and telecommunications technology providers to get broadband installed and devices loaned or donated to those children without them.
  • Where this isn’t possible, schools should be posting out resource packs that include some basic guidance for parents. Where available, teachers and schools should work with Traveller Education Support Services, and other Ethnic Minority & Traveller Achievement Services (EMTAS) to ensure GRT pupils are not forgotten.
  • Ensure children on free school meals still have access to their meals and/or the new voucher scheme. This includes infant children with universal access but whom the voucher scheme excludes.
  • Make schools aware that the predicted grading system will be biased against GRT, other nomadic groups such as New Travellers, Circus families, Showmen, Boaters etc. and BME pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Establish guidance on how to overcome these biases.

It is crucial that the government ensure that the educational gaps Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children already face are not widened further by the response to the pandemic. We urge you to take this letter and its recommendations seriously.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards.

Pauline Anderson OBE, Chair of the Traveller Movement

Lisa Smith, Chair of the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers (ACERT)

 

Co-signed by:

Helen Jones, CEO, Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange

Andy Gregg, Chief Executive, Race on the Agenda

Sarah Mann, Director, Friends, Families and Travellers

Mihai Bica, Roma Support Group

Professor Margaret Greenfields

Atiha Chaudry, Chair, Greater Manchester BAME Network CIC

Professor Kalwant Bhopal, Director, Centre for Research in Race & Education, University of Birmingham

Dr. Martin Myers, Assistant Professor in Education, University of Nottingham

Dr Zubaida Haque, Deputy Director, The Runnymede Trust

Zahra Bei, Co-Founder, No More Exclusions

Debby Kennett, CEO, London Gypsies and Travellers

Paul Sayers, Education Champion, Luton Roma Trust

Win Lawlor, Strategic Policy and Partnerships Manager, Irish Community Care

Jacqui Barbet-Shields, voluntary advocate

Marc Willers QC

Aurora Todisco, Finance and Information Officer, Healthwatch Tower Hamlets

Jake Ferguson, Chief Executive Officer, Hackney CVS

Fiona Dwyer, CEO, Solace Women’s Aid

Mia Hasenson-Gross, Executive Director, Rene Cassin

Yvonne Field, CEO, The Ubele Initiative

Dr Wanda Wyporska, FRSA, Executive Director, The Equality Trust

Sherrie Smith Consultant

Gypsies and Travellers Essex

Lord Simon Woolley, Director, Operation Black Vote

Professor Colin Clark, University of the West of Scotland

Christine Browne, GRT Lead, Widening Participation, King’s College London

Felicity Dowling, Left Unity

Mrs Kerry Maines

Revd Rob Ryan, St. Barnabas Little Ilford

Brian Dalton, CEO, Irish in Britain

Gurpreet Virdee, Women and Girls Network

Edmund O Akeju, West London Equality Centre

Edward Milner (Sante Refugee Mental Heath Access Project)

Nigel Turner OBE, Chair, Redbridge Equalities and Community Council

Sarifa Patel, co-Chair, Disability rep Forum Newham

Aidan White, Founder, Ethical Journalism Network

Lukasz Konieczka, Executive Director, Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre

Islamic Human Rights Commission

IROKO Theatre Company

London Irish Feminist Network

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmwomeq/360/report-summary.html

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-school-closures/guidance-for-schools-about-temporarily-closing

[3] https://www.ippr.org/files/2020-03/1585586431_children-of-the-pandemic.pdf

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The Traveller Movement is a national community charity promoting inclusion and community engagement with Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.

The Traveller Movement seeks to empower and support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities to advocate for the full implementation of their human rights.

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COVID-19 - Important Information

In view of the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we’ve taken the decision to help protect members, friends of TM and colleagues by closing the Traveller Movement office.

All staff will be working remotely for the foreseeable future, meaning our team will be continuing providing services but through our social media platforms, over the email/zoom or other means of remote communication instead. 

We will be updating our website and social media platforms on a regular basis.

If you are looking for further information, we have put together a specific Covid-19 page on our website with many resources and factsheets to assist during this difficult time.  Please visit; https://www.travellermovement.org.uk/covid-19