Egypt squatters lose homes as govt seizes state-owned land
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.
An Egyptian woman sits on the rubble of her house that was demolished on Warraq Island in Cairo’s north, on July 20