Therese Coffey discusses quarantine for travellers
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Members of the Gypsy, Roma and Travelling (GRT) community began arriving for the 250-year-old event in Kirkby Stephen, in Cumbria. However, their arrival was met with a tense stand-off with locals in a neighbouring market town.
After one of their camping sites was sprayed with cow manure and sectioned off with boulders, the travellers set up camp at a nearby rugby club, sparking anger with the club.
The management of the Upper Eden Rugby Club was left furious after police told them they could not close the gates to prevent more coming through.
This was in case those already trespassing on the site needed to leave in an emergency.
An unnamed rugby club stalwart wrote on social media: “Yesterday afternoon at 14.30, I was contacted by the Covid testing personnel to inform me that we had some travellers pitch up at the rugby club.
“I immediately attended the Club and requested support from club members… there were two police officers on site.
“The Covid testing personnel departed the site and we closed and padlocked the gate, at this point we were confronted by a large number of travellers and a stand-off ensued.
“There was a large number of vehicles and caravan blocking the road.
“We requested that the travellers on the Club car park be removed and sent on their way, the police informed us that this was a civil matter and they had no powers to move the travellers on.
“We were told that we would have to apply for a Court order to remove the travellers.
“We were also advised not to lock that gate as those travellers on the club premises may need to be out in an emergency or similar situation.
“The travellers gave us their word that they would leave the club today, I can confirm that they offered us money to stay.
“This was refused and we have not received any monies.
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“The police reassured us that they would be performing regular visits to the Club to monitor the situation.
“We held our monthly Exec Meeting last night (Monday) at the Club and there was a large police presence, the police have issued the travellers with a Dispersal order which means that they have to leave the Club today or they will have their vehicle seized and be removed.
“To say that we are not happy with the situation is an understatement as we are a Community Club and we do value our neighbours, residents and businesses of Kirkby Stephen.”
However, the travellers argued they were being victimised and said they were “doing no harm” and were forced to pitch up at the rugby club as their usual spot was soiled with cow manure.
Traveller Pauline Foster, 69, told MailOnline: “There were four or five police vans called and we warned we’d be kicked off double-quick.
“They took pictures of all our caravans and vehicles and said if we didn’t move we’d be charged and if we didn’t pay it they follow us to Appleby to get it from us.
“We were doing no harm at all. The fair begins on Thursday so we’d quickly have moved on into Appleby.
“The only reason that we came here is because the site we’ve stayed at for years and years was soiled with cow manure and sectioned off with boulders by some farmer.
“It’s outside the village of Nateby in the middle of nowhere and the travelling people do no harm there.
“The discrimination and harassment we suffer is getting worse and if this was any other race or culture there would be an outcry, but because it’s our community people let it happen.”
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