From what I understand, Travellers are families of Scots or Irish origin, an indigenous UK minority community, which were disrupted generations ago by landlord evictions and who took up the road as a means to maintain their own continuity. I first came upon them when, for a law school paper, I was looking for community outside of Canada to describe which had first suffered legal discrimination then human rights protection. I find the fact of their existing fascinating. Unlike, for example, the familiar story of the Highland Scots culture crushed after 1745 or the less well-known story of the Fenland people in England, whose life off the land was destroyed by industrialization from the 1600s to the 1800s, the Travellers have survived.
The Travellers are like the Roma (the people most call "gypsies", an error from an assumption in the 1500s that they came to England from Egypt) in that they had long lived in horse drawn caravans, have come into conflict with greater society, and have much the same needs but they form a distinct Gaelic culture, compared to the complex Indian roots of the Roma. A third group, new age travellers, has also been identified. Here is some information on the legal issues these communities have faced from the angle of their education needs in Scotland. This is an interesting passage illustrating someting of the nature of the community:
While it was important to establish and highlight Travellers’ very specific, special or particular needs it also brought a degree of exposure and limelight which many Travellers had not sought and often did not want. They had survived many centuries of often brutal and repressive legislation, usually by keeping a low profile, a degree of separateness and by being ‘unseen’ as they went about their lives.This current story characterizes some of the tension and attitudes they live with or trigger, depending on your point of view:
"If the Irish travellers acted like everybody else and stopped intimidating people and went through planning permission, people wouldn't have to have such a problem with them." Next to the Irish travellers' site is a small row of legally-built houses belonging to Roma Gypsies who have been in the area three decades. Residents are unanimous about this smaller group of settled travellers. They are variously described as "fabulous", "excellent people" and "never a problem". For the Irish travellers, the local authority, Basildon council, is resolute. The council says it provides many legal traveller sites, but it does not plan to build more and expects central government to take a lead in the issue.
Local municipal governments in the UK have provided caravan parks and other housing suitable for the life of the travellers though there are still organizations needed to advocate for the recognition of the legitimacy of the lifestyle of these communties. Governments even have a challenge identifying how many there are and where the communties are located at any given time, what services they need and the extent of their rights and the obligations of greater society to address those rights.
What I find most interesting is the perception and the subjective reality, the seeming desire to perpetuate a dislocation that is no longer forced upon them, the failure to grasp the thing at the heart of the community that speaks to them of themselves. It is an excellent illustration that where discrimination occurs, it is largely based on lack of understanding, some real conflict but also and likely mainly false assumptions of the discriminator having little to do with how the community which suffers the discrimination knows itself.