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A UN representative has accused an Essex council of "violating international law'' over the clearance of the UK's largest illegal travellers' site.
Professor Yves Cabannes, a UN adviser on forced eviction, was visiting Dale Farm near Basildon where a mass clearance is due to begin on Monday (19th September).
He said: "A study which I led on forced eviction found that at Dale Farm and the UK in general the Government is violating international human rights law on three points.
"These are the right to adequate housing, the right to be defended from forced eviction and discrimination.''
Prof Cabannes added that Basildon Council had failed to provide the pitches it should make available to travellers.
He added: "The people who are abusing the law are the council, not the travellers. The council is not fulfilling its duties.''
His visit came as there were signs of travellers beginning to leave the site voluntarily. At least five caravans are believed to have left on Tuesday night.
The eviction is due to start on Monday and follows a decade-long row over unauthorised plots: although half of the site is legal, an estimated 400 people are said to be living on 51 unauthorised plots.
Travellers and supporters say they will resist the eviction peacefully but police are preparing a major operation to ensure the Basildon Council-led operation passes off peacefully.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "The British courts have found that the developments at Dale Farm are in breach of planning law and Basildon District Council is within its rights to evict travellers from the site.''