An Irish traveler has slammed new anti-trespassing laws that he says will feel “like a prison” for his family when they are forced into houses.
Martin Ward, 30, is one of many Gypsy, Roma and Traveler communities fearing the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act of 2022, due to come into force this month.
Under the law, thousands of Traveler communities could face eviction if they are deemed to cause “significant damage, disruption or distress” while staying overnight on unauthorized land.
Police will be given more powers to hand out fines of up to £2,500 with three months jail time for those who don’t comply.
But Martin, from Northfleet, Kent, says the unauthorized camp rules aim to “criminalize the way travelers live”.
He told Kent Online: “I never thought it would be a law to come in.
“They’re trying to force us into houses we can’t live in, it’s going to feel like a prison.
“My family calls me all the time and cries and tells me what to do when we have nowhere to go.”
He added, “We’re not doing anything wrong, we’re just who we are.”
The Home Office says enforcement of the measures will come into effect on June 28.
The changes are introduced as part of a Conservative Party manifesto to crack down on unauthorized camps and follow two rounds of public consultations.
But Martin says there is a lack of transit points for travelers to go to and councils lack both the funding and the political will to deliver them.
The YouTube and TikTok performer denies claims travelers are responsible for much of the widespread vandalism and littering at country parks, saying suggestions are often overblown.
And he says many Traveler families, including his own, will struggle to adjust if thrown out of transit, reports Kent Online.
Martin said: “We deal with a lot of racism. We don’t change for anyone.”
Under the Housing Act 1985, local housing authorities have a duty to assess the housing and accommodation needs of everyone, including those living in caravans.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The majority of travelers are law-abiding and we respect their right to follow a nomadic way of life.
“No one should have the unexamined right to trespass on other people’s lands without their permission and to cause harm and endless misery to local communities without consequences.
“As with many of the measures in this law, this new unauthorized camp offense is about giving police the right powers and flexibility to protect the law-abiding majority from disruption and harm.”
https://www.the-sun.com/news/5544522/irish-traveller-forced-homes-prison/ I’m an Irish traveler and we’re forced to live in houses… it’s like PRISON – my family keeps calling me out in tears