Egypt squat­ters lose homes as govt seizes state-owned land

Muscat Daily - - REGION -

War­raq Is­land, Egypt - Hala Ga­mal looks at a pile of rub­ble on War­raq Is­land - all that’s left of her house af­ter a po­lice op­er­a­tion to evict res­i­dents ac­cused of squat­ting on state land.

Ga­mal (31) said she had left the Nile is­land in the cap­i­tal’s north on July 16 to buy breakfast. She re­turned to find her home de­stroyed and her chil­dren on the street.

As part of a gov­ern­ment cam­paign to re­claim hun­dreds of thou­sands of hectares of sta­te­owned land, po­lice stormed the is­land and de­mol­ished sev­eral homes, spark­ing clashes that left one res­i­dent dead.

The gov­ern­ment says about 90,000 peo­ple live on the 420 hectare is­land. In a Cab­i­net re­port, it promised that ‘those who have con­tracts and of­fi­cial pa­pers prov­ing land own­er­ship’ would not be af­fected by de­mo­li­tions.

But Ga­mal said that was not true in the case of her house, where she lived with her hus­band, his mother and their four chil­dren. “I have all the gov­ern­ment pa­pers and stamps that con­firm that my hus­band owns the house,” Ga­mal said. “So why this ag­gres­sion by the gov­ern­ment against sim­ple peo­ple like us?”

Ferry owner Nasser Ahmed (47) said the or­ders were signed just a day be­fore the de­mo­li­tions were car­ried out. “They rushed to im­ple­ment them the fol­low­ing day with­out send­ing a sin­gle no­tice [to res­i­dents]. They de­mol­ished two in­hab­ited houses,” he said.

Squat­ters be­gan set­tling on the is­land more than 15 years ago, turn­ing what had been agri­cul­tural land ‘into a slum’.

In May, Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah al Sisi or­dered a cam­paign to re­cover state-owned land which had been en­croached upon.

(AFP)

An Egyp­tian woman sits on the rub­ble of her house that was de­mol­ished on War­raq Is­land in Cairo’s north, on July 20

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