Equalities Watchdog warns of “increasing racial tensions” against Gypsies and Travellers

24 August 2016

The Equalities watchdog has released a damning new report about racism in the UK and has warned the Government of “increasing racial tensions” against ethnic minorities – including Gypsies, Pavee and Travellers.

The report, by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, is called ‘Healing a divided Britain’, represents the biggest ever review into race inequality in Great Britain.

Gypsies and Travellers are included in the report which looks at education, employment, housing, pay and living standards, hate crime, health, criminal justice, and participation.

David Isaac CBE, Chair of the Commission, said that the report “provides an alarming picture of the challenges to equality of opportunity that still remain in modern 21st century Britain,” and called for a comprehensive strategy on racism from the Government.

Commenting on the Equality and Human Rights Commission ‘Healing a divided Britain’ report, Yvonne MacNamara CEO of the Traveller Movement said:

“The EHRC’s in-depth report rightly highlights the systemic disadvantages and discrimination the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities face across the UK.

“The Traveller Movement’s 2016 Discrimination Survey found that, as a coping mechanism against racism and discrimination, 77% of Gypsies & Travellers hide their ethnicity. It is shocking that in 2016, people are forced to hide their ethnicity in order to access employment and services.”

“We hope the government works with EHRC and others towards a fairer society, which ensures such practices are no longer necessary.”

The report singles out Gypsies and Travellers as being the most discriminated against ethnic groups in many of the areas it covered and puts the blame squarely on the government’s failure to make progress against discrimination and on the media’s biased reporting of Gypsy and Traveller issues.

It the very last paragraphs of the 75 page report it summarises the stigmatisation that Gypsy, Traveller and Pavee people face in their every-day lives and states that:

“Negative attitudes towards Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities are still widely held. According to a 2014 survey, 50% of people in Britain reported having an unfavourable view of Roma.”

“Discrimination and harassment of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers is common across Britain, not only on the part of the general public, but also by the police and other authorities. Evidence from a study carried out in Devon found that some people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities hid their ethnic identity to be able to access employment and services. Others said that their children were bullied at school and that they had been refused entry to pubs and cinemas. Britain has failed to make progress on all of the measures aimed at fighting discrimination that are part of the European Commission’s Framework for National Roma Integration.”

“The Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland continues to raise concerns about the lack of moderation on newspaper websites. This has led to racially offensive comments about Gypsy/Travellers (in particular) being left on websites for weeks. In a recent Scottish Parliamentary Inquiry (into Gypsy and Traveller accommodation) the media were cited in submissions as encouraging bad relations. This was primarily through the almost exclusively negative reporting of Gypsy/Traveller issues, fostering a ‘not-in-my-backyard’ attitude. There were few examples of reporting from the Gypsy/Traveller perspective.”

The Travellers’ Times will be writing an in-depth feature on the report next week and has contacted Many Gypsy, Pavee and Traveller organisations – both funded and unfunded grass roots - for comment and for examples of work they are doing to end discrimination and prejudice.

If you belong to a campaign group and have not been contacted yet but want to participate, please contact us on Travellerstimes@ruralmedia.co.uk and we will send you a full brief.

We want this new report by the Commission to be a chance to take stock of the problems we face – and the work being done to turn them around.