- Title: ALGERIA: Families sleep in street after their homes are demolished by authorities
- Date: 22nd July 2010
- Summary: VARIOUS OF PROTESTERS HOLDING UP BANNERS
- Embargoed: 6th August 2010 13:00
- Location: Algeria
- Country: Algeria
- Topics: Domestic Politics,Social Services / Welfare
- Reuters ID: LVA2ZSNVQW25E153JUZKMEY80BGO
- Story Text: Scores of families have been staging a noisy protest outside local government headquarters in a district of Algiers after the authorities flattened the slum they were living in but did not provide them with new accommodation.
The families - including women and children - are holding a day and night sit-in at the local government building in Bab el-Oued in the hope that officials will take pity on them and provide them with new housing.
One of the protesters, 27-year-old Hamid, said they hoped news of their plight would reach Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
"They said that they would give us flats but they did not give us anything. They threw us outside. We are asking for accommodation and we want the message to reach (President) Bouteflika. They told him we had accommodation, but we do not. All the people here were born in the shanty town."
The Algiers municipal authorities say they have successfully re-housed thousands of people from dangerous and cramped slums into newly-built apartment blocks as part of a state programme to improve housing conditions. But protesters said they had been given nothing.
"We heard Bouteflika saying they would move all of us. They came and told us that they would destroy the shanty town. We trusted them because of Bouteflika. When we left, they destroyed it. They did not give us even one piece of paper and they threw us outside, without anything to eat or to drink or any shelter," said 38-year-old Samia.
A group of families from the Beaucheraye district said officials came to their neighbourhood on the evening of July 17 and told them they would be re-housed the following day. The families were given cardboard boxes to pack up their belongings.
The next morning, they loaded their furniture and other effects into trucks provided by the municipal authorities. They said they were driven to a field about 30 km from the capital where they spent the night out in the open. The following day, the families said, officials arrived with a list of families who had been allocated new houses.
Those who were not on the list were told to make their own arrangements, the families said. They returned to their district in Algiers to find that all the houses there had been demolished.
"They promised to give us flats but when we went there, there was nothing. Then we came back and our old houses had gone - look, nothing remains. We ask the authorities to keep their promise. Around 40 families are living outside - all of them are from this area," said 28-year-old Fateh indicating where his house once stood.
Also picking through the rubble was 50-year-old Mahieddine, who said he had lost everything.
"When we came back, we found everything had been destroyed. They did not explain anything. My possessions are dispersed. We cannot understand it. What can we do? We cannot do anything but come back and rebuild. That is our solution," he told Reuters Television.
When residents discovered that their homes had gone, there were clashes with police as some of the families staged protests while others went to the municipal headquarters to begin their sit-in.
About a hundred families have now spent several nights sleeping in the streets of the Algerian capital surrounded by piles of their furniture and belongings.
One woman said she had had to take all her possessions to an empty building, where she had made a makeshift shelter.
"When I came back, I found my house destroyed. We did not know what to do, so we brought our possessions here and we spend our nights in the street, without eating or drinking. We have not cooked for five days - the people bring food for me and my children," said 58-year-old Farida.
The Algiers municipal authorities said in a statement that families from the Bab el Oued district who were sleeping in the street did not qualify for re-housing because they already owned other accommodation or had not applied in time. They said any complaints would be given a fair hearing.
But some of the families interviewed by Reuters Television said that was not the whole story. Some of them said they had previously been given apartments but they were far too small for their families. One woman said her family of eight had been allocated a two-room apartment.
Other people alleged that many of their neighbours from the demolished slum also did not qualify for the re-housing programme, but that they had been given new apartments all the same. They said they were not being treated fairly.
In a statement, the local authorities explained why some of the families from the demolished districts had not been been on the list for re-housing. They said some applications had been submitted after a 2007 census of the district was conducted, some householders had other property either in their names or in the names of their spouses and some people had already been given state housing aid.
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