Tags / Evictions
November 12, 2014
Al Araqib is one of the 46 Bedouin villages in the Negev desert that the state of Israel refuses to recognize. The residents of the village, both past and present, inherited these lands from their fathers and grandfathers. Harassment from the Israeli Army and vigilanties has become commonplace for the Araqib Bedouin. The harassment dates back to 1948, when a gang of Zionist militants rounded up 14 Bedouin men working in a field in al-Araqib and summarily executed them. Since 1948, homes and properties in al-Araqib have been regularly destroyed and stolen. On July 27th, 2010, the village was totally demolished. Since then, the village has been re-built and destroyed 33 times. However, many residents were unable to stay and moved to the recognized village of Rahat. Those who did choose to stay are confined to the area of the Al-Turi cemetary and have been living under harsh conditions, always scared of an unexpected visit from the soldiers.
After more than a decade of violence and political unrest, Ivory Coast is experiencing important investments from foreign nations in an attempt to encourage economic growth in the country. But while government projects will allegedly benefit the population, some people suffer from evictions that are pushing many Ivoirians from their homes to make room for high-visibility infrastructure projects.
In October, the country announced a $114 million loan from the Export-Import Bank of China at two-percent interest over 20 years to finance a six-lane motorway construction linking Abidjan to the historical city of Grand-Bassam, 30 km to the east.
Gonzagueville belongs to the Port Bouet commune, in the outskirts of the capital. All of the buildings in the suburb of Abidjan have been demolished to make way for the construction of the Abidjan-Grand Bassam motorway.
According to witnesses, police officers arrived early in the morning in the southern coastal suburb of Gonzagueville and burned down several tents, threatening residents and telling them to leave the premises immediately. “Some of us were woken up at 5 A.M,” they say, “and told we had one hour to leave.”
Residents say the government didn't set an official date for them to leave by. They proposed to start next summer to avoid disrupting the school year, but the government refused.
Several miles of houses in Gonzagueville, among other areas, were taken down as part of a $114 million project aimed at developing the tourist sector along Ivory Coast's south coast and help ease congestion in the capital Abidjan.
The Ivoirian government has planned to pay $6.5 million in compensations to relocate the people living in these areas. However many say they haven’t received the money they were promised and are living among the debris of what used to be their homes.
Isaac is a traditional healer. He has no place to go and is staying with a friend. He hasn't been able to work ever since he was evicted due to the lack of space at his friend’s place.
Another resident evicted, Viviane is moving back to her home country, Ghana. She says she hasn't received any compensation. “And even if I did, it would not be enough to buy a new home.”
People claim that residents living in shanties and tents across the coastline in Gonzagueville are constantly threatened by local authorities to leave the area. Those lucky enough move in with friends, but most of those displaced by the demolitions have no place to go and are forgotten by local authorities.
Assouan Carine says that she and her mother were living in a tent with six more families until local authorities burned it down.
Before being evicted, residents remove literally everything from their homes, including the roof, to use it in their future houses. However, several families have no place to go and are surviving among debris in unhealthy environments. Improvised camps can be found across the coastline in Gonzagueville, often hosting multiple families, who struggle to have access to the most basic needs, like clean water.
Most children can't go back to school and have to stay home in the rubble of their former township with their families and help search for steel and re-sellable metal in abandoned houses.
Hotels, churches and gas stations were also taken down. Some crosses are set by residents in the sand across the coastline to mark the former emplacement of churches.
Many other projects are being undertaken by the government – including roads, housing and infrastructure upgrades - to boost the already high production of rubber and cocoa. Ivory Coast is the largest economy in the West African Economic and Monetary Union, and its economic capital Abidjan is known as Western Africa's Paris.
The Mahuay brothers outside of your house
The municipality pays for a hotel accommodation only when the evicted families ask for an emergency procedure. If their request is judged positively, then they receive a temporary accommodation.
Kumara, Mary and Nathaka Serasinghe used to live in a 40 sq.m. two-room apartment, paying 600 euro for month. Mary is out of work and Kumara is a day laborer in a store in the outskirts of Milan. For legal immigrants, in fact, the registration of the lease is required to obtain residence and renewal of the "residence permit". When they applied for registration of the contract house's to get the "residence permit" of Mary, the owner increased the rent, at which point they are no longer able to pay the rent and arrived the notice of eviction.
The Mauhay family, including Arnold, Mardy and their children Adrian, Alessa and Angel, were living in a house in the north of Milan. The building was very badly maintained. The stairways had no lights and their was dangerous electric wiring. After their eviction, they are now living in a hotel with the support of the municipality. This is the Mahuay brothers inside the hotel. Milan, Italy, July, 2013.
Mauhay’s two-room apartment. Five of them used to sleep in this room; Adrian, the oldest son, slept in the living room.
Kumara and Mary Serasinghe are from Sri Lanka and they came in Italy eight years ago. They are, as many others, victims of the illegal rent black market. It is estimated that in Italy between 500 thousand and one million apartments are rented in black, resulting in a high tax evasion. For legal immigrants, in fact, the registration of the lease is required to obtain residence and renewal of the residence permit.
Kumara and Nathaka Serasinghe wait as an official hands them eviction documents.
The Serasinghe family are going to the municipality office that deals with the housing project and the evictions.
The Serasinghe family in the metro station after being evicted.
After the eviction, the municipality social service relocated Mary and her son Nathaka to a foster home. The social worker explained that the law is for the protection of the child. This forces them to settle without Mary's husband in the housing.
Mary and Nathaka Serasinghe in a foster home, where only women and children can be accommodated.
The rent of the Mauhay family's house amounted to 550 euro for month.
The Mauhay family waiting for the police officers to evict them from their house.
The housing conditions are often unbearable: systems are not compliant with current regulations and masonry are deteriorated, but rents do not seem to decrease.
Mauhay family's kitchen
Alessa Mauhay is seen inside her house during the eviction.
Arnold and Alessa Mauhay the day of your eviction
The stairway of a block of flats totally occupied by migrants. The two-room flats are crumbling down to piaces and not complying with the law. The renting fees are too high for the economic possibilities of the families.
The Mauhay family are going to the municipality office that deals with the housing project and the evictions.
The Mauhay family inside the municipality office.
Arnold Mauhay speaks with a public official and finds out that the municipal committee has accepted his application for public housing.
Technically, it's called “arrearage innocent”: indicating people will be evicted because with their scarce income they are unable to pay the rent.
The families with many members are the most vulnerable; families of up to 6 often live in a 40 square meter apartments with little or no means to apply to public housing to relocate.
While social emergency demands increase rapidly, just in the city of Milan 5.000 public houses remain empty, waiting to be surveyed and put in condition to be inhabited.
The Mauhay family is from Philippines. Arnold, Mardy and their children Adrian, Alessa and Angel, were living in a house in the north of Milan. The building was very badly maintained, the stairs had no lights and the dangerous electric wiring affected their house. After their eviction they are living in a hotel with the support of the municipality.
Kumara and Mary are from Sri Lanka. They, as many others, are victims of the illegal rent black market. As they are undocumented migrants it is impossible for them to register without permits for a housing contract. When they tried to ask the owner to give them a proper lease, he increased the rent. They were unable to pay and soon after received an eviction notification. Now Kumara is living in his car, and Mary is hosted in protection housing with their son, Nathaka.
During the realization of this project I've built a close relationship with several families. In the beginning I tried to follow their stories from the notification to the eviction, but when the police and the legal officer avoid me to take photos during these moments, I had to focus my attention on other aspects of their stories, like details that could reveal the dramatic experience they were experiencing. After the eviction, in fact, some families went to hosting structures, another part moved to hotels with the support of the municipality, while many others had no other choice but to sleep on the streets while they wait for a public social house, to which they are entitled.
Angel Mauhay in his house. The building in which they live is located north of the city of Milan, the facade is brick color and looks in good condition, but the interior is crumbling, the stairs are steep and dark, inside the apartment passes a thin beam of light, the walls have a purplish color and electrical cables are discovered.