IF YOU live in Andover, the presence of travellers over the summer months has been difficult to ignore.

Whether groups have been pitching up at Picket Twenty or dumping human waste on Saxon Fields, there has been no shortage in controversy over the temporary neighbours.

But behind the stories of disputes and tension, there are groups of marginalised people who for whatever reason appear not to have a permanent base.

Action group London Gypsies and Travellers said those on the road deserve to be treated with respect and kindness like everyone else.

A blistering report published by the Human Rights Commission in 2016 found that discrimination against travellers is so rife across the UK that gypsies and travellers feel forced to hide their ethnicity when applying for jobs.

The watchdog found that the two groups were among the most disadvantaged sections of society.

The report found that they face multiple disadvantages including lower life expectancy, high infant and mortality rates and low child immunisation levels. The two groups are ‘considerably overrepresented’ in prison, making up 4 per cent of the national prison population.

London Gypsies and Travellers said the issue is complex. A spokesman told the Advertiser: “The cultures and traditions of Gypsies and Travellers have developed through a nomadic way of life over centuries.

"Some Gypsies and Travellers still travel in the summer, but lack of sites and draconian eviction powers make it difficult for many to go on the road now. Their traditional way of life is protected under human rights and equalities law. But there is a shortage of council sites and stopping places across the country, which means many have problems finding places to stay.”

The spokesman said on top of this, travellers battled with being received negatively by locals when they move into areas such as Andover. He said: “Prejudice, discrimination and isolation affects Gypsies and Travellers’ access to services, jobs and accommodation. Negative media coverage increases feelings of alienation.”

This newspaper tried reached out to members of the travelling community who are currently living in Andover but did not manage to make contact with anyone.

However one Andovian Krista Phillips told this newspaper she believed residents need to treat travellers with more respect.

Ms Phillips said: “They are people needing somewhere to live like you and I.

“Yes, some of them break the law - like others do in this town. Yes they are messy - like others in this town. Yes they leave their dog mess - like others in this town.

“People need to stop acting like they are superior to them. They are living a life like others. When barriers are put up to stop them, they will fight back. Give them somewhere to live and this won’t be a problem.”