by the Department of the Environment to introduce new anti-camping measures aimed at Travellers to substitute for the powers of designation through to be now illegal under the Race Relations legislation.
Although there are legal measures to address incitement to hatred nominally on the statute book, these have proved ineffective to address a number of vitriolic attacks by politicians and others, including the notorious comment by a former deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast that Travellers were dirt who should be sent to the city incinerator. (source: Paul Noonan, unpublished report)
In the Nordic countries officials may grant recognition to Roma but are far more reluctant to recognise Taters. In Norway, Travellers or Taters were equated with vagrants and the official policy was one of assimilation (see Halvorsen and Hvinden, 1997). The Norwegian Mission for the Homeless was seen by the municipal authorities as having special competency for dealing with Taters. Government policies and private agencies tried to put an end to nomadism and Taters were subjected to extensive surveillance and social control: One commentator described the perception and treatment of Travellers in this way:
"Taters were seen as a parasitic group, as dangerous, and immoral or anomic individuals threatening to the order of larger society. The Travellers have, throughout history, been strongly discriminated against as a minority group in Norway, with regard to legislation and official understanding, which have been restrictive and racist. A consequence of this has been a devaluation of the Travellers. They are regarded as inferior and of low status” (Schluter, 1993).
As in some other countries an element of the assimilation process involved putting Tater children into care and foster homes, with many negative consequences related to loss of identity and isolation. In the media there have been discussions about ways of 'solving' the Tater problem through internment and sterilisation.
Schluter comments on how the long history of rejection and exclusion has had very negative consequences for the self-esteem of the Taters, as well as loss of cultural identity, ghettoisation and concludes the following from this: "Travellers, therefore, protect themselves against the majority society and they have developed various strategies to achieve this, for instance rejection, withdrawal or anger and aggression, or perhaps also sanctions."
In Norway the media tends to perpetuate negative stereotypes of Taters and Traveller advocates state that there is a need for greater public awareness and information to counter these stereotypes and prejudices. However, it would appear very difficult for Taters themselves to achieve progress without proper support. Many Taters are trapped between two cultures as a result of policies of forced assimilation. This is manifested in the resulting psychological problems such as severe anxiety and depression, as well as other health problems. Taters are also faced with obstacles in the form of administrative and legal requirements, which restrict their traditional way of life and economic activities, thereby contributing to dependency and poverty.
Public response to the Taters range from denial and avoidance to isolation, harassment and even violent attacks. Since 1986, Norwegian Taters have the same formal rights as other Norwegian citizens, but the lack of a legitimate cultural space and the denial of cultural rights have blocked Travellers’ access to legal and political institutions and the full benefits of the welfare state. The status of Taters as an “ethnic minority” or “national minority” in Norway, remains to be decided by the government (Halvorsen, 1997).
In more recent years the Romani People's National Association (Romanifolkets Landsforenng: RFL) has tried to adopt a very different approach with a view to facilitating the organisation and mobilisation of Taters. RFL has lobbied officials and the government to desist from using negative labels such as 'vagrants' and 'scroungers' when referring to Travellers and is trying to reclaim the term Tater from its pejorative connotations. It has also called for recognition of Taters as a minority ethnic group whose cultural identity needs to be protected and resourced (Halvorsen and Hvinden, 1997). It has also started to plan for a Tater museum with a view to achieving greater recognition for the culture of Taters.