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Playing fair? The revival of Romani lobbying in Multicultural Britain. ‘The future of Multicultural Britain: meeting across boundaries’ June 14-15, 2005. Dr. Colin Clark University of Strathclyde Introduction: what are the issues?.

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playing fair the revival of romani lobbying in multicultural britain
Playing fair? The revival of Romani lobbying in Multicultural Britain

‘The future of Multicultural

Britain: meeting across


June 14-15, 2005.

Dr. Colin Clark

University of Strathclyde

introduction what are the issues
Introduction: what are the issues?
  • An overview of the main issues (‘invisible lives’).
  • What is ‘the problem’ (inclusion/exclusion – and a history of prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes).
  • What can be done? (challenges on every level: legal, cultural, social, political).
  • Methods of approach? (being ‘visible’, media, and active lobbying).
  • NB: Agency: new alliances and political mobilization (GTLRC, European Roma Federation and other civil rights groups and refugee networks).
multiculturalism and gypsies
Multiculturalism and Gypsies
  • An ‘ethnic minority’ group or not? (supporters and critics.
  • Cultural differences and cultural diversity; difference that is created and sustained by cultural practices.
  • Diversity = “different but equal”?
  • Protection of group culture – language, beliefs (Romipen) and a place for Romani nationalism?
  • Where do Gypsies and Travellers fit into ideas of a ‘multi-ethnic Britain’?
  • How far does multiculturalism ‘travel’ in terms of inclusion?
  • Are Gypsies and Travellers involved and part of these debates? Where do they feature?
where are the gypsies
Where are the Gypsies?
  • Issue: The relative lack of ‘space’ for Roma, Gypsies and Travellers within the multidisciplinary Ethnic and Racial Studies world…

“The student of European history who searches

for Gypsies will find them only in footnotes.”

Lucassen, Willems and Cottaar (1998) Gypsies and Other Itinerant

Groups: A Socio-Historical Approach, London: Macmillan. (p.1).

the place of gypsies
The ‘place’ of Gypsies?

“Though they have distinctive beliefs about sources of pollution, their culture is not so very different from that of non-Gypsies, except (in Western Europe) for their moving from place to place; this restricts their children's schooling, and because of circumstances in which it is done, attracts the hostility of the non-Gypsies. That hostility is not 100-per-cent unwelcome to Gypsy parents because it helps bind their children to the group’s way of life and discourages them [from] seeking opportunities in the wider society.” (my emphasis)

Michael Banton (1997) Ethnic and Racial Consciousness, London:


what do we know about gypsies
What do we know about Gypsies?
  • Who are the Gypsies and Travellers of Britain? - origins, family and a history of exclusion, containment, assimilation.
  • Where are Gypsies in Britain? On the margins. (geographical spread, sites, occupations, movement, activism).
  • Why do we know so little? (economic, political and cultural reasons, on both sides?).
  • How can we find out more? (ethnic monitoring? the Census? ODPM? PSI surveys?… severe data limitations here – a 5th PSI survey?).
subject to status
Subject to status?
  • The legal ‘ethnic’ status of Gypsies and Travellers across the UK.
  • The question is still being asked today: are they or aren’t they ‘ethnic’?
  • And, is this ethnicity ‘valid’?
  • English Gypsies (1989) – CRE Vs Dutton.
  • Irish Travellers (2000) – O’Leary Vs Allied Domecq.
  • Scottish Gypsy-Travellers – Informally yes (Parliament and Executive), formally no (no court case as yet).
  • Question here of both formal and substantive rights.
what are the contexts
What are the contexts?
  • The birth and death of the Caravan Sites Act, 1968.
  • ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, 1994 (especially Section 80).
  • Latest guidance and circulars from OPDM / DfES (e.g., GPG - a case of ‘running to stand still’?).
  • ‘Sites, schools and civil rights’ – is this terrain the new Romani lobbying agenda?
  • The human and economic costs of policy failures (e.g., eviction costs of £18 million pounds a year - Cardiff Law School research, Morris and Clements, 2002).
  • Politics and the Media – agents of change?
politicians and gypsies
Politicians and Gypsies

“The trawl through Hansard is revealing… Gypsies are

vilified… the themes are familiar and repetitive… the same

words keep re-occurring… filth, crime, excrement… there

are few words of sympathy.”

Royce Turner (2002) ‘Gypsies and British Parliamentary

Language’ Romani Studies, 12(1):26.

Key question: Can Gypsy issues ever be anything other

than a ‘vote loser’ for politicians?

we believe in fair play too
‘We believe in Fair play too’

We live in a modern Britain. We are proud to be part of a diverse and

multicultural nation. We are proud to be Gypsies and Travellers.

Too many councils, politicians and newspapers seem to think they

don’t have to play by the rules. Gypsies and Travellers are being

discriminated against.

We don't want knee jerk reactions. We want solutions that are fair for


We need more choice, more legal sites, more dialogue and more



the media and gypsies stamp on the camps
The Media and Gypsies: ‘stamp on the camps’

“The thorny question of how the media covers controversial

issues has reared its head again, with a Sun newspaper

campaign declaring "war" on a "gipsy free-for-all.”

(Paula Dear, BBC, March 11 2005)

Key question: are the media part of the problem or part of

a solution?

the gypsy and traveller law reform coalition
The Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition

Formed September 2002

“The Gypsy & Traveller Law

Reform Coalition is an alliance of

Romany Gypsy, Irish Traveller

and New Traveller campaign

groups committed to raising the

social inclusion of these and

other Traveller communities.”

the traveller law reform bill
The Traveller Law Reform Bill
  • Cardiff Law School
  • 31 January 2002 (launched)
  • 10 July 2002 (revised, read in HoC by David Atkinson MP)
  • Current position: from the TLRB to the Housing Bill…
making allies friends in high places
Making allies – friends in high places?
  • Many organisations and institutions across the UK are now appreciating the importance of working with and supporting the efforts of Gypsy and Traveller groups:
  • Commission for Racial Equality
  • Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Social Exclusion Unit
  • Department of Work and Pensions
  • House of Lords (Lord Avebury)
  • House of Commons (until recently Kevin McNamara MP)
  • Department for Education and Skills
  • Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights
  • Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
  • Liberty
  • European Roma Rights Centre
  • European Social Forum
roles and responsibilities
Roles and responsibilities?
  • A need for effective, responsible, ‘grown-up’ dialogue between the different interested parties:
  • Politicians
  • Press
  • Local policy-makers
  • NGOs
  • Other ethnic minority communities/groups
  • Gypsies and Travellers
  • The settled community / local neighbourhoods
what is the road ahead
What is the road ahead?
  • Where do we go from here? Is it:
  • A question of law and order?
  • …of human rights?
  • …of environmental protection?
  • …of heritage, tradition and ‘lifestyle’?
  • …of land?
  • …of ‘playing fair’?
  • It’s about respect: effective partnerships built on principles of mutual respect for difference.
  • Multiculturalism needs to be reconfigured: cultural racism needs to be stamped on, not Gypsy sites or families.