How your church can get involved in Sanctuary Stopping Places.
What Is Sanctuary Stopping Places?
Sanctuary Stopping is a scheme for churches to participate in 'Negotiated Stopping', and by doing so help increase the number of places where Gypsy. Roma and Traveller peoples may stop over legally and safely.
'Negotiated Stopping' was developed by the Gypsy-Traveller organisation LeedsGATE, working with local authorities, communities, police and other agencies. Negotiated Stopping agrees which land can be used for temporary stopping with Gypsy-Traveller people and the landowner, as well as duration of stay and - in some cases - contribution to costs.
Often, the local authority will provide the necessary facilities (e.g. water, temporary toilets, refuse collection), monitoring and offer opportunities for health and welfare checks/contact with support services.
Models like this already exist, e.g. Durham County Council provides temporary stop-over sites at peak times of travelling demand, such as Spring/Summer. Such sites vary in size and include laybys, car parks and industrial estate land, but limited availability exists.
Why Is Sanctuary Stopping Places Needed?
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller peoples are a recognised ethnic group and so, under the Equality Act 2010, they are entitled to protection against discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the grounds of race.
Many Gypsies and Travellers live in housing or on a permanent site. However, even these people need to travel at intervals for cultural (funerals) and social reasons. Travelling to fairs goes back centuries and maintaining this tradition is a way of preserving identity and passing on knowledge and skills to younger generations. Much of the skill set of Travellers means it is necessary to travel for work.
Gypsies and Travellers experience many difficulties when travelling such as verbal and physical abuse, damage to vehicles, lack of access to drinking water, toilets or washing facilities and difficulties with waste management.
In 2022 the Police, Crime, Courts, and Sentencing Act was passed. Part 4 of this, although not directly targeted at Gypsy-Travellers, is causing the communities significant anxiety and distress. Part 4, with its increased powers for police to respond to ‘unauthorised encampments’, creates a new offence of residing or intending to reside on land with a vehicle where it causes, or is likely to cause 'significant disruption, damage, or distress'.
It also increases the existing period of time in which trespassers directed from land would be unable to return from three to twelve months and grants private landowners significant powers to trigger a criminal offence with respect to what was previously a civil dispute. The organisation, Justice, believes these measures would likely indirectly discriminate against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, breach their rights to privacy in the home and be in breach of the public sector's equality duty.
Frequently Asked Questions
Three friends own a tiny cottage and had thought to offer its use for refugees. When they heard about a small family of Gypsy-Travellers needing to urgently move out of their own property because of severe, ongoing, and escalating, racial attacks and threats they agreed to offer it to this family.
‘We were a bit unsure’ said one of the friends. ’All we knew about Gypsies and Travellers then was what we’d read in newspapers or seen in some TV programmes.’
The family stayed in the cottage as guests for eight months. During that time, they made friends with neighbours and tried in small ways to befriend people. ‘We wanted to give something back’, they said. ‘We couldn’t pay with money so we did what we could to pay in kind’.
The friends were very pleased with the arrangement. ‘Our property was well looked after all the time we had our guests and even the overgrown and tangled garden was tidied up for us. We have learned more about Gypsies and Travellers and we know now to take a lot of what we hear about these communities with a big pinch of salt’.