CAIRO: Families forcibly evicted from their homes in the Estable Antar and Ezbet Khairalla slum areas in Cairo say that they have not received suitable alternative accommodation.
The families were removed ahead of the planned demolition of the homes, which the authorities say are unsafe and liable to collapse.
“They took us by force at 3 o’clock in the morning on Monday and forced us to leave our homes, Salah Saber Ali, a resident of Ezbet Khairalla, told Daily News Egypt.
“They threw us on the mountain at Sixth of October city, and then they knocked down the houses with some of the furniture inside it, Ali continued.
Around four homes were demolished in Ezbet Khairalla. Residents say that they were moved to workers’ accommodation located between a mountain, and Media City in Sixth of October City.
“The apartments they moved us to are 35 square meters and are made of wood. They lack any services, there is no drinking running water – the water there is from roof tanks and is yellow, smelly and undrinkable, Fouad Abdel Moneim, one of the evicted residents, told Daily News Egypt.
“These apartments were made for mine workers in the desert and weren’t made for families. How can we leave our women and daughters there with the mine workers in the middle of the desert; it isn’t safe there.
“I have five children in addition to my wife. How can we live in these very small apartments, Abdel Moneim continued.
Residents say they were prevented from leaving the area by security forces.
“The children got sick and we couldn’t move them to hospitals, one man died of a heart attack and they didn’t allow us to call the ambulance, Ali told Daily News Egypt.
“Security forces surrounded the area so we can’t even go and visit our old houses and if we do they beat us.
“They forced us to stay there for four days and didn’t allow anyone to go out, so we escaped through the back of the mountain.
When Daily News Egypt went to the Ezbet Khairalla area, residents were congregated in a street adjacent to their demolished homes. Access to the site of their former homes is restricted by a security cordon.
Some of the residents had furniture and other belongings piled up in side streets.
Residents say they were made to sign “false contracts.
“They forced us to sign imaginary contracts that we received apartments but many of us were left in the street homeless, said one of the residents.
According to a photocopy of the contract shown to Daily News Egypt, each evicted family is entitled to an apartment from Orascom cooperative housing in Sixth of October City for LE 70 rent per month
Evicted residents say that the contracts only entitle them to temporary, rather than permanent housing.
Khaled Mostafa, a spokesman for the Cairo Governorate, denied these claims.
“Around 40 families were moved to El-Nahda and provided with homes equipped with all services from water to electricity.
“The some 100 families who were evacuated from Ezbet Khairalla were moved to Sixth of October City.
“We have three committees which inspect the safety of the southern and eastern side of the Moqattam mountain area. Where it is found that people are living in an area endangering their lives they are evacuated immediately, Mostafa explained.
Mostafa denied that residents were evicted in a violent manner.
Egypt has been the target of consistent criticism by NGOs and UN bodies for the often violent way in which evictions and house demolitions are conducted and the failure of authorities to provide evicted residents with compensation or alternative accommodation.
On Sept. 6 over 100 people are thought to have died when huge parts of the Moqattam hill broke away, crushing the houses underneath them in the Duweiqa slum area.
Residents of Duweiqa claim said that both residents and the authorities were aware of the risk posed by the crumbling cliff face, but that the authorities failed to take steps to avert the danger.
Three weeks later, some Duweiqa residents made homeless by the rockslide are still living in the streets.
According to Tawasol, an NGO which is active in Estable Antar, half of the area’s population are unemployed and three-quarters illiterate.
An inadequate sewage system and refuse collection service means that there is a high threat of disease. Furthermore, many of the houses in the area are perilously constructed on the edge of a cliff-face.
Tawasol runs a school in Estable Antar serving local children who have dropped out of the state education system. It also provides vocational training in carpet-weaving alongside academic education.
Om Yasmeen, a Tawasol volunteer, confirmed to Daily News Egypt that the evictions had taken place.
“Large trucks took the furniture of residents evicted from Antar Street. Some of them were moved to Sixth of October City while others were taken to El-Nahda in Salam City.
“One of our students, Zeinab who is 12 years old and who works with in the carpet-weaving factory, was evicted with her family and moved to Maadi. She now lives with her grandmother in Estable Antar in a house whose demolition is planned in the next phase.
Evicted residents are planning to organize a protest in front of the television building if the situation remains as it is.