Amnesty International highlights plight of Egypt's 'unsafe' homes

Ahram Online, Wednesday 24 Aug 2011

For the revolution to meets its aspirations of social justice, the 12 million people living in unfit housing in Egypt need to be addressed

One of el-Salam residents during the three months sit-in before State Television HQ. Photo: Mai Shaheen

Amnesty International has urged Egyptian authorities and political parties to give priority to the rights of the country’s 12 million “slum”-dwellers. In this way, the demands of the January 25 Revolution for social justice and human dignity can be fulfilled. Amnesty made this recommendation in a report issued on Tuesday.

In Egypt, where 40 per cent of the population live on approximately $2 a day, the issue of housing is prominent. During the years of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s rule, the disparity between rich and poor grew ever wider as more people fell under the poverty line, leading analysts to anticipate a “hunger revolution” in Egypt.

One of the main concerns highlighted in Amnesty’s report is that the “Egyptian authorities have persistently failed to consult communities living in ‘unsafe areas’ on plans to address their inadequate housing conditions.” The report is the fruit of two years of research.

The same point was also highlighted during the press conference conducted by Amnesty International on Tuesday to coincide with the report’s release. “Not one person out of the hundreds we interviewed had ever been adequately notified before their eviction or consulted on alternative housing. With elections approaching, Egyptian authorities have an opportunity to right that wrong,” Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK Director, told the assembled press.

Amnesty’s findings are backed up by events in Manshiyet Nasser in 2008 where a rockslide left several dead. The tragedy led to authorities designating 404 areas across Egypt as unsafe, adds Amnesty. Currently thousands are living in Manshiyet Nasser at risk of future rock falls at anytime.

It is not just the previous regime that has failed to manage the issue, with the situation unchanged since the revolution.

For almost three months, protesters have staged sit-ins outside the State Television and Radio headquarters in Maspero. Residents from Cairo neighbourhood of Madinet El-Salam have been protesting to shine a light on their plight after they were evicted from their homes and forced to live in tents. The protest only ended after they were promised action, although nothing has yet happened.

According to official sources cited by Amnesty International, an estimated 850,000 people live in areas deemed “unsafe” by the authorities, while 18,300 housing units in Egypt are at risk of imminent collapse.

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