‘Social cleansing’ claim of boat dwellers at the centre of eviction row

A protest against the feared eviction of disabled and elderly boat dwellers over licensing issues is set to cause waves on the canal this weekend.

Campaigners across the country will gather in MK to unite against the demands of the Canal and River trust.

Anita de Klerk

Anita de Klerk

“What is happening now is almost a social cleansing where they are attacking the weakest people on the canal,” said Anita de Klerk, who founded The People’s Flotilla Against Austerity .

They fear the legislation will force boaters to move on every 14 days.

Said Anita: “That is a clear indicator of what their plans are and that is to get rid of us.

“People have referred to us as scum in the past and said that people should own their own home before they own a boat. They really don’t like us.”

On Saturday between 2pm and 4pm, protestors will meet at the towpath opposite the Peartree Bridge Pub, with plans to march to the Canal and River Trust’s offices at MK station to hand in a petition with over 5,500 signatures.

Anita said: “We are not trying to cause chaos and mayhem. If I were to be evicted I would have absolutely nowhere to go – the boat is my home.”

A Canal and River Trust spokesman said: “Boats and boating are at the heart of everything we do. All we ask is that boaters abide by some simple rules and pay their fair share, with their licence fee going towards keeping the 200-year waterways working.

“We know that sometimes people run into difficulties, and this is extremely hard for everyone involved.

“When this happens we always do everything we can to work out solutions with the people involved including, where we can, allowing longer than usual stays and helping people find alternative moorings.

“We also work with other organisations, such as local councils and mental health services, to support people who might need additional help.

“Removing a boat is always the last resort, and the decision has to be made by an independent Court.

“To put things in context, during 2013 we approached 250 live-aboard boaters over licensing issues.

“The majority of these cases were successfully resolved and only six boats were removed.

“Boats bring life and character to the waterways and we welcome and support live-aboard boaters, leisure cruisers and holidaymakers alike.”