CAIRO: The forced eviction of informal settlement dwellers reflects Egyptian authorities’ disregard for human rights, a report by Amnesty International released Tuesday said.
The report, titled “We are not dirt: Forced evictions in Egypt’s informal settlements,” documents cases of forced evictions in slums from so-called “unsafe areas” where residents’ health or lives are said to be at risk.
This is the second report on Egypt’s slums to be released by Amnesty International. It was discussed at a press conference Tuesday held at the Journalists’ Syndicate.
With research conducted over two years, and interviews with almost 200 slum residents, the report documents how the Egyptian authorities have persistently failed to consult communities living in “unsafe areas” on plans to address their inadequate housing conditions.
There are 12 million slum-dwellers in Egypt. In 2008, following the Duweiqa rockslide, the Egyptian authorities identified 404 “unsafe areas” across the country. Meanwhile, according to the Egyptian Center for Housing Rights, there are 5.8 million habitual units in Egypt which have never been used.
“People living in Egypt’s slums must be given a say in finding solutions to their dire housing conditions,” Kate Allen, director of Amnesty UK, said. “It is unacceptable that people are evicted with no consultation and no discussion of plans [or alternatives] to eviction … and without being given notice before the eviction.”
The report also revealed that eviction doesn’t take place according to the degree of risk residents are subjected to.
Om Alaa, a resident of Al-Me’adessa Street in Manshiyet Nasser, said her district has been at risk of rockslides since December 2009. Om Alaa, massing up with other residents of the district, has been calling on the local authorities to relocate them safely.
On the other hand, residents of Al-Sahaby informal settlement received an eviction notice even though this area is considered much safer than Al-Me’adessa Street.
These double standards of forced eviction suggest that eviction is only carried out in strategic areas which might produce commercial gain, rather than prioritizing the safety of the residents, the report argued.
When residents refuse to comply with the eviction, “they face unlawful forced evictions [by the riot police and recently by military police] and arbitrary arrests under repressive laws,” Allen said.
“We had aspirations that these methods would disappear after the revolution,” Om Alaa said, “Yet, they did not.”
The report added that people are robbed of their right to appeal against eviction, in violation of international law.
The after-eviction phase introduces even bigger problems. According to the report, there is no guarantee that slum residents receive compensation for their eviction.
Not all residents receive alternative housing, the report said, as bribery plays a vital role in deciding who gets which houses. Women are also discriminated against in the process of granting alternative housing, especially those widowed, divorced or separated from their husbands.
Those who are granted alternative houses are not consulted about their options, according to the report. They most likely end up in residencies too far away from their source of income, without the necessary documentation for their new homes.
The report also condemned the Cairo 2050 Plan. In May 2010, the government announced plans for some “unsafe areas” (renamed “shack areas”) in Cairo and Giza within the framework of the Cairo 2050 plan. The residents of 33 “shack areas” in Greater Cairo are to be relocated into 35,700 housing units in the distant Sixth October City, south-west of Giza, and 15 May City, south of Cairo.
Amnesty International recommends reconsidering the Cairo 2050 Plan, after effectively consulting the people, since the plan has never been made public, the report said.
Allen announced at the conference that Mostafa Matbooly, head of the General Organization of Physical Planning, agreed to the recommendations of the report and promised to work on executing them.
Amnesty International has already presented that report to the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Housing, the Minister of Global Development, the Governorates of Cairo and Giza, and the Informal Settlement Development Facility.