Bailiffs have arrived at Dale Farm in Essex urging campaigners to stop obstructing the eviction process amid fears the standoff between the traveller community and the enforcement officers could turn sour with supporters warning that the vulnerable will be the most affected.
Commenting on the situation and the barriers put in place to keep the officers outside of the camp, a spokesman for the bailiffs said he was worried a structure erected by the campaigners had the potential to "put people's lives in danger".
The Dale Farm eviction has grabbed the headlines for months with accusations of breaches of human rights being advanced by advocates of the cause and recently backed by a Professor Yves Cabannes, a specialist on forced eviction, and UN advisor who insisted it was the council, not the travellers, who were in the wrong.
"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," he said.
As many as 400 people who have been living on the 51 unauthorised caravan plots are now facing eviction, with many saying how the community is now being torn apart.
Trying to prevent further obstructions Bryan Lecoche, who works for council-employed bailiffs Constant and Co, told travellers and protesters there was "legal judgement which allows Basildon Council to restore this area of land back to green belt land".
"There are major health and safety concerns. You have deliberately blocked the emergency access road.
"In addition I am concerned that the structure erected has the potential to put people's lives in danger," he added.
As the standoff intensifies and with observers saying the evictions could last for weeks, many fear outbursts of violence could start to appear. The more the evictions progress, the more the travellers and gypsy community risks feeling alienated and targeted. The expulsion will also have an impact on the community living on the land as many will find it difficlut to see some of their friends or relatives being forced out of what had until now been their home.
According to figures advanced by officials 12 families have already left the site at Crays Hill while those remaining have built reinforcements at the six-acre site.
Despite its efforts, Basildon Council failed to convince the residents to leave and as a result those who stayed have, along with activists, erected a barrier that was later on taken down by council staff.
Defending the council's position, council leader Tony Ball said: "If they do not allow us in then we will begin action. Once it starts it will move swiftly and the site will be cleared even though it might take six to eight weeks."
"My personal concern is over the introduction of outsiders who may have their own agenda and not have the interests of the travellers at heart," he said.
"I have also been told that these protesters on the site now outnumber the travellers."
He added: "The overwhelming number of callers to the council support our action and approach."
Ball also announced that electricity would be turned off, citing the safety of the operatives as the main reason, while the cleared site would also be left so that it could not be re-entered.
Essex Police said their presence at Dale Farm was intended to keep the peace and ensure anyone breaking the law was dealt with but no arrests had been made so far.
Supporters are now calling for Basildon Council to provide at least 62 plots to provide temporary housing as those made homeless by the eviction will need a place to stay while they search planning permission for other sites.
The Council said it had so far received 56 homelessness applications.
The eviction is also raising fears that once again the weak and vulnerable are the ones who will be the most affected by the council's decision.
As the Dale Farm eviction started on Monday, the High Court in London rejected 72-year-old traveller Mary Flynn planning application's appeal despite her legal team saying she suffers breathing problems.
Stephen Cottle, her counsel said she was "too frail" to be evicted, and "dispossessing" her of her land would be "disproportionate" under human rights laws.