Urgent Action Appeal #1
URGENT ACTION APPEAL
- From Amnesty International USA
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“The World is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything.”Albert Einstein
URGENT ACTION APPEAL
- From Amnesty International USA
1 November 2010
UA 230/10 - Forced Eviction
EGYPT 200 families
On 23 October 2010, flooding in Ezbet Abu Rgela informal settlement, in north east Cairo, from a sewage canal left the makeshift homes of 200 families destroyed or uninhabitable. The families urgently require alternative housing.
The flooding was triggered after a resident of Ezbet Abu Rgela died reportedly from an unsafe electrical wire touching the canal water. The police were informed and the Al-Salam Neighbourhood Authority sent a bulldozer to recover the body. The bulldozer reportedly hit the side of the canal causing a gap through which sewage water could escape. Residents say the authorities reinforced the gap and sent cars to pump the water. The residents tried to support the banks of the canal with sand and makeshift materials but water had already reached a couple of meters high in some homes and others were already uninhabitable due to fractured walls. Seven homes fell altogether.
In total the homes of 200 families were destroyed or left uninhabitable. Those living below the level of the canal were most affected. The families are now sleeping in alleys near their wrecked homes to protect the remainder of their damaged possessions. There is no light at night, and they make fires to protect themselves from stray animals and other dangers. The local authorities have provided neither temporary shelter nor alterative housing to the residents.
The Egyptian Center for Housing Rights has filed a complaint with the public prosecutor against the Cairo Governorate on behalf of 55 families so that they are provided with emergency relief and shelter. A local mosque has offered temporary shelter, food and blankets to some of the families. Others are staying with nearby acquaintances.
On 10 October 2010, the Cairo Governorate reportedly announced that it is in the process of allocating flats in 6 October City, south east of Giza, to residents of "unsafe areas" in Cairo, including Ezbet Abu Rgela. Residents however were not consulted over these prospective plans, whether of upgrading or clearance of the areas.
As Ezbet Abu Rgela stretches along a narrow strip of an
open sewage canal, residents live in constant fear of flooding, especially when
it rains in winter. It is estimated that 5,000 families live in Ezbet Abu Rgela
in Al-Salam neighbourhood, near Cairo Airport. Residents are generally poor and
rent their homes for 100-250 Egyptian Pounds a month ($US26-43). Most residents
work as daily wage labourers or waste recyclers. The informal settlement has
grown since the 1970s as people occupied land mainly owned by the army. In the
past, the residents have complained of the lack of basic infrastructure such as
water, sanitation and electricity and women felt unsafe in the streets, Children
have also reportedly drowned in the open sewage drainage canal and residents
live in danger of fire, electrical shocks due to unsafe wiring as well as the
danger of the unfenced Cairo-Suez train railway which crosses Ezbet Abu Rgela.
The Informal Settlement Development Facility (ISDF), a fund established by the President in 2008, designated Ezbet Abu Rgela as one of Cairo's 53 "unsafe areas" for its residents. The ISDF coordinates government efforts and plans in dealing with informal settlements and gives priority to "unsafe areas". Amnesty International however fears that such plans are not developed in consultation with the local communities, which leaves them at risk of forced eviction. The organization has criticized plans for the clearance of 33 "shack areas" in Greater Cairo, as well as in Aswan, most of which are built on land owned by the state. Forced evictions are generally carried out by local authorities with the help of the police. Amnesty International has documented forced eviction in Cairo's informal settlements of Manshiyet Nasser, Establ Antar and Ezbet Khayrallah, where the largest "unsafe areas" in Cairo are located.
In the middle of June 2008, military police sought to forcibly evict residents of Ezbet Abu Rgela and demolish their homes to extend a neighbouring garden. As the residents resisted, the military police told them they had two weeks to clear the land or they will be evicted by force on 30 June 2008. Members from the Egyptian Center for Housing Rights and 6 April Youth movement went that day to stand by the residents and organized a media campaign. The eviction was eventually not carried out but the residents remained living in their poor housing conditions.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
- Urging the Egyptian authorities to immediately provide emergency shelter and assistance to the families affected by the sewerage flooding in Ezbet Abu Rgela;
- Reminding the authorities of their duty to protect the residents of Ezbet Abu Rgela and their right to adequate housing;
- Urging them to provide the families affected with compensation for the losses they have incurred;
- Asking that they initiate as a matter of priority a process of effective consultation with residents of Ezbet Abu Rgela to provide them with adequate alternative housing and implement measures necessary to safeguard residents’ health and safety, respecting guarantees against forced eviction.
Governor of Cairo
Dr. Abdel-Azim Morsi Wazir
7 Abdin square, Al Gomhoriya Street
Fax: 011 20223904620
Salutation: Dear Governor
Executive Director of the Informal Settlement Development Facility Ali El-Faramawy
3 El-Mokhayam El-Dayem street
Nasr city, Cairo
Fax: 011 20222634000
Salutation: Dear Dr. Ali El-Faramawy
Ambassador Sameh Shoukry
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Ct NW
Washington DC 20008-2023
Fax: 1 202 244 4319
1 202 244 5131
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.
Check with the AIUSA Urgent Action office if sending appeals after 13 November 2010.
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Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement that promotes and defends human rights. This Urgent Action may be reposted if kept intact, including contact information and stop action date (if applicable). Thank you for your help with this appeal.
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Amnesty International USA
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END OF URGENT ACTION APPEAL