CAIRO: Cairo’s Administrative Court ruled Saturday in favor of residents of an island in Giza who had been threatened with eviction from their homes.
The court verdict quashes a prime ministerial decree which would have removed the roughly 5,000 inhabitants from their homes on El-Qorsaya island.
Many of the roughly 1,000 fishermen and 4,000 farmers who constitute El-Qorsaya’s population have lived on the island for generations since the island was first inhabited in the 19th century.
Last year, bulldozers protected by army troops arrived on El-Qorsaya – which lies in a prime location in Cairo – amid rumors that it would be converted into a tourist complex.
The islanders responded by launching a media campaign against the plans, residents saying that as farmers and fishermen they would be unable to sustain their way of life away from the island.
The court case was launched in 2007.
While the Administrative Court’s reasoning has not yet been released, Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported Monday that the court had ruled against the government because of a misuse of power in the issuing of the prime ministerial decree.
State-run Al-Gomhuria reported that the island’s status as a natural protectorate prohibits the pursuit of commercial or industrial activity on it.
Mohamed Abdel Azim, a lawyer with the Egyptian Center for Housing Rights, says that while he welcomes the verdict, it does not represent a decisive solution to the problem.
“El-Qorsaya is one example amongst many of the government trying to get its hands on land – Dahab, the island next to El-Qorsaya is currently involved in the same battle, Abdel Azim told Daily News Egypt.
“While the Administrative Court decision stops the implementation of the prime ministerial decree, it doesn’t establish residents’ legal right to the land they are living on. In addition, it doesn’t oblige the government to provide services to them, he added.
Islanders say that they have had to install basic services themselves.
“A case was previously launched against the Potable Water Company because of their failure to provide drinking water. The company’s defense was that since the island is a protectorate it is not obliged to do so, Abdel Azim said.
“A comprehensive solution to the El-Qorsaya issue must recognize islanders’ legal right to occupy the land.