Document - Egypt: 200 families at risk from falling rocks



UA: 35/10 Index: MDE 12/008/2010 Egypt Date: 16 February 2010


URGENT ACTION

200 FAMILIES AT RISK FROM FALLING ROCKs

200 families in Manshiyet Nasser, an informal settlement east of Cairo, Egypt, are in imminent danger of serious injury or death because of a high risk of rock fall. The authorities have so far failed to relocate them.

Zamzam Mohamed Abdel Nabi, aged 35, her husband Mohamed Hassan, a 40-year old baker, and their two children, Alaaand Husssein, are among around 200 families in Manshiyet Nasser who are at risk. They are renting flats in buildings of three to five storeys located at the end of Al-Me’adessa Street right next to the rocky hill of Al-Muqattam. Their homes are built under the cliffs, from which rocks are very likely to fall.

Several times in 2009, geology experts hired by the Cairo Governorate identified this zone of Al-Me’adessa Street as being in imminent danger. The families have however not been evacuated to a safe place and live in constant fear of danger to their health and lives. They have been neither offered temporary shelter nor alternative housing. The residents say they cannot afford to move to another place themselves because of their low incomes and their dependence on the informal economy in the neighbourhood or in nearby old Cairo. Workers hired by the authorities tried to secure the cliffs by breaking some rocks but it led to rocks falling on homes, and reportedly caused cracks in the walls of the nearby buildings. On 2 January 2010, the residents submitted a complaint to Manshiyet Nasser Neighbourhood police station about the risk they face. Throughout January, they complained to the Cairo Governorate and the Egyptian Parliament and organized several sit-ins calling for their relocation to a safe place, but to no effect.

On 11 February 2010, Amnesty International witnessed the forced evictions of families living on the same street as three buildings were demolished. These evictions did not respect international human rights standards on evictions. Security forces were deployed in the area and the residents were evicted on the spot, without any prior notice. They had not been informed of the date of eviction, and had to remove their possessions immediately. There was no consultation with them either before or after their eviction. The same day, they were relocated to flats in Suzanne Mubarak dwellings in the upgraded area of Al-Duwayqa, in Manshiyet Nasser. They were not provided with documentation providing them with any security of tenure, or guarantees that they would not be forcibly evicted again in the future. According to residents, some families were not given alternative housing. Residents reported that during the eviction, some families expressed concerns that the demolition of these buildings could affect the structural safety of the remaining buildings. One man protested but the police threatened him that if he did not remain quiet he would be issued with detention orders under emergency law.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Arabic, English or your own language:

  • Urging the Cairo Governorate to promptly evacuate the 200 families of Al-Me’adessa street from the danger zone and relocate them to ensure their safety, and hold genuine consultations with the residents to identify suitable resettlement sites and to ensure that any alternative housing provided is adequate;

  • Reminding the authorities of their duty to protect the lives and health of the residents of Al-Me’adessa Street and their right to adequate housing, to provide adequate information to residents of Al-Me’adessa Street on the dangers and the safety procedures to secure the rocks in the area; and to consult them adequately in seeking appropriate solutions to their plight;

  • Initiate as a matter of priority a process of effective consultation with residents of all designated “unsafe areas” in Manshiyet Nasser, and expeditiously implement measures necessary to safeguard residents’ lives and safety, respecting guarantees against forced eviction.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 30 MARCH 2010 TO:

Governor of Cairo

Dr. Abdel-Azim Morsi Wazir

7 Abdin square, Al Gomhoriya Street

Cairo, Egypt

Fax: +20223904620

Email: Cairogov@Cairo.gov.eg

Salutation: Dear Governor

Informal Settlement Development Fund Director

Ali El-Faramawy

2 Latin America Street, Garden City

Cairo, Egypt

Fax: +20222634000

Salutation: Dear Mr. Ali El-Farawamy




Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.


URGENT ACTION

200 FAMILIES AT RISK FROM FALLING ROCKS

Additional Information

Since 1997, geological studies by official bodies have identified Al-Me’adessa Street as a danger zone in Manshiyet Nasser. By 27 December 2009, an enumeration committee from Manshiyet Nasser Neighbourhood authority counted the families living in the area, a procedure that is normally completed in order to allocate alternative housing to residents. However, the authorities did not consult the residents about the conditions of relocation or their evacuation. The next day, workers hired by the local authorities started to secure the cliffs by breaking off some of the rocks. The police told the residents to leave the area for a few days or sign statements that they agreed to evacuate the buildings, apparently to absolve the authorities of responsibility if rocks fell on the buildings. The residents refused to leave as they had nowhere else to go but the work to try and secure the cliffs went ahead and reportedly caused some damage to local buildings and places of residence. On 2 January 2010, the residents submitted a formal complaint to Manshiyet Nasser Neighbourhood police station about the ongoing threat of rock falls. The police referred the matter to the Manshiyet Nasser Neighbourhood authority, which sent engineers to assess the danger on the buildings and recommend either repairs or the demolition of the buildings and relocation of the residents, in accordance with Law on Building of 2008. The engineers did not make a decision for reasons that remain unclear. The affected families then complained to the Cairo Governorate and the Egyptian Parliament, and organized sit-in protests calling for their relocation to a safe place – but all without success. There was a rock fall on or about 4 February 2010 which, fortunately, did not cause serious damage but which acted as a further reminder of the threat faced by residents.

The acute shortage of affordable housing in Egypt means that millions of people have to live in informal settlements - in all, around 12 million people in Egypt as a whole, according to official sources. More than half of these are in Greater Cairo, where 26 informal settlements have been officially designated as ‘unsafe’ by the Egyptian authorities due to their location in rocky areas or for other reasons. They include Manshiyet Nasser. This designation of ‘unsafe’ areas was made in the context of a Greater Cairo development plan to be completed by 2050 – this currently envisages that the whole of Manshiyet Nasser will be transformed into gardens and tourist accommodation.

In September 2008, a rockslide in the area of Al-Duwayqa in Manshiyet Nasser killed at least 119 people and injured 55, according to the Public Prosecutor’s investigation. With the help of geologists, the authorities identified 13 unsafe areas inside Manshiyet Nasser informal settlement - where around one million people live. Waves of evictions have followed the rockslide of 2008. Guarantees against forced eviction were not respected. No consultation or negotiations have been held by the authorities with local residents, even when the unsafe areas are identified well before their eviction, and residents are not notified in advance of the date of eviction. Many people complain that they continue to live in danger and are not consulted as to finding a solution or in their relocation. The demolition of their neighbours’ houses further threatens their own. Residents fear that the authorities will demolish their homes and relocate them – without consultation – to Al-Nahda, a new urban area about 30 kilometres north-east of Cairo and far from their sources of livelihood and social networks. So far, the evictees of Manshiyet Nasser have been relocated to the nearby Suzanne Mubarak dwellings, but the accommodation there is almost full - according to the Cairo Governorate, around 4,000 families had been relocated there by the end of 2009. Some evicted families were left homeless. Those who are allocated accommodation are not given security of tenure at their new places of residence.

On 29 December 2009, a Vice-Governor of Cairo and seven other officials from Manshiyet Nasser Neighbourhood Authority were indicted on charge of involuntary homicide and injuries relating to the September 2008 Al-Duwayqa rockslide. The next session of their trial before Manshiyet Nasser’s Court of Misdemeanours is due to commence on 10 March 2010.



UA: 35/10 Index: MDE 12/008/2010 Issue Date: 16 February 2010

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