By Faith Anderson, Public Affairs Officer
The fact that the Traveller community experiences hate crime is one thing – but what is shocking is that it is not addressed.
The authorities are, at best, indifferent and, at worst, hostile to the Traveller community. In the experience of the CSAN member charities, who work with Travellers if an incident of hate crime is reported, there is a very slim chance that the police will act – and an even slimmer chance that there will be a prosecution or some kind of retributive action.
Naturally, this fosters a relationship of disappointment and mistrust between the victims of hate crime and the authorities – what is the point of reporting abuse if you do not expect that you will be listened to, or that the incident will be properly logged, or that there will appropriate action taken?
The Traveller Movement, a charity which campaigns for the rights of the Traveller community, conducted a Discrimination Survey in 2016. Although 98% experience hate crimes, only 27% seek some form of redress. This means that the vast majority of the Traveller community are experiencing abuse or discrimination because of their ethnicity, and the majority do not feel that they can do anything about it through the channels of the criminal justice system.
Can you imagine this from any other community? Can you imagine a survey which found 98% of Catholics had experienced hate crime? Can you imagine going to a police officer to report being denied access to services, the vandalism of your property or physical or verbal abuse and seeing them do nothing about it?
This is the reality of what the Traveller community faces. In particular, abuse online and in the media is completely tolerated. Recent examples include One policeman vs 30 TRAVELLERS: Invasion of caravans and vehicles; Travellers are evicted from London park after getting in through gap in the fenceposts; £3m taxpayer-funded gypsy camp housed a giant cannabis plantation. I cannot help but think that if the media talked about any other ethnic groups in this way, it would not be accepted.
A reciprocal relationship of trust and respect needs to be built, in which the Travellers contribute to and live in harmony with their communities – communities which welcome and respect them in turn.
One side needs to reach out and end the cycle of animosity – and as the majority of Travellers are Catholic, perhaps the Catholic community is best placed to open our Church’s doors, literally and metaphorically, to this community – so that racism against them is eventually condemned as racism ought to be.
This week, for Hate Crime Awareness week, the Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities should not be forgotten.
Did you know that discrimination against the Traveller community was a major issue?
Find out what else is going for National Hate Crime Awareness Week on Twitter with #NHCAW
The views expressed in this blog are not CSAN policy.