Security forces, squatters face off over 6 October housing units

Zeinab El Gundy, Thursday 27 Oct 2011

Squatters refuse to abandon housing units despite tear gas and arrests; Army vows to eject them by force following 48-hour deadline

Tear gas
Police fired tear gas at Egyptian squatters (Photo: Reuters)

Security forces on Thursday began evicting squatters from hundreds of residential units in 6 October City on the outskirts of Cairo. The move reportedly followed complaints about the squatters’ presence by local residents of the area.

According to news reports, security forces – including police, central security and military personnel – used tear gas against squatters that refused to leave, arresting an unknown number of them.

Clashes reportedly broke out after squatters responded by hurling Molotov cocktails at security personnel in an attempt to free their detained colleagues.

Security forces and local residents accuse squatters of engaging in criminal activity, terrorising residents, and forcibly occupying vacant housing units. The squatters, meanwhile, strenuously deny the charges, saying they only want a safe place to live.

According to one local eyewitness, the army on Monday gave squatters a 48-hour deadline by which to vacate all housing units. Violators, the army said, would be ejected by force, the eyewitness claimed.  

The New Urban Communities Youth Alliance, which has closely monitored the situation, has issued an online statement blaming the government's New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) for causing the problem by offering housing units to citizens who didn’t necessarily need them.

The alliance went on to point out that the NUCA had completed the units two years ago and then waited for their real-estate value to rise before selling them at higher prices. Many of those who have illegally occupied units, meanwhile, were never provided with new housing, despite having applied for it months ago with the urban authority.

NUCA officials, for their part, deny the alliance’s accusations, claiming that the units in question were not yet completed and had already been reserved by purchasers.

The incident is hardly the first of its kind. Following the revolution in January, squatters moved into numerous empty residential units in governorates across the country. Many of them were subsequently ejected by force.

Despite Egypt’s chronic housing shortage, recent estimates put the number of vacant residential units at about 6 million countrywide.  

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