Egyptian government destroys people’s houses without indemnity

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The Egyptian government has begun removing residential buildings next to the ring road, the highway that goes around Cairo, for road expansions. This step raised outrage among the citizens who live in these areas and will lose their houses. The government abolishes these houses using force, but it does neither pay the accorded indemnity to the residents nor provide alternative houses.

The government uses a law, which was legislated in 1990 then amended in 2018. This law gives to the president or whom he delegates the right to abolish private property for public benefit. A recent amendment of this law was in 2020 and stipulated that the owners of the abolished property are entitled to have indemnity worth the value of the house plus 20 per cent. However, the government in fact estimates such houses at lower than market value, forcing the residents to leave their houses with insufficient indemnity. The government has estimated the three-room apartments at only EGP 160,000, while they are worth at least EGP 300,000 according to market prices. This estimation has provoked an outcry from residents.

Samah Mahmoud, a housewife who has an apartment in a soon to be demolished building, said that she has owned this apartment since 2002, and she, with her four children, live on the pension of her husband who died five years ago. Utilities have been cut in the apartment to force Samah and her children out. “We are ready to leave if it is fair, but the indemnity, if it is actually to be paid, is an understatement and lacks consideration for our financial status,” said Samah.

In the same vein, the residents of Tersa Street, where dozens of buildings are being evacuated to construct a highway connected to the ring road, sent a message to the president. The message confirms that their buildings are licenced and legal and demands a fair indemnity for them so that they can purchase new houses. The apartment’s price in this street amounts to EGP 700,000, while the government pays only EGP 120,000. Although some residents have accepted a low indemnity, some have received nothing months later.

Mohamed Bakry, a governmental employee and resident of a building which will be demolished imminently, said that he has lived in this house for 20 years and has paid EGP 120 rent monthly. He has three children, all of them are students. “Where could I go with them in such a season with exams just around the corner?” Bakry asked. “Where is the indemnity the government promised? It was supposed to be paid six months before evacuation so that the citizen can manage the situation.”

Naser Fahmy, from Tersa Street, said, “Our houses were removed for the public benefit one year ago, but we did not receive either indemnity or other houses so far, despite the price estimated by the government which is much lower than the real value.”

Amr Amin, an artist who lives next to the ring road, said that he lives with his ailing father and bedridden mother. Amin demands the compensation not to be just financial, as there are patients who need a quick alternative. He demands another house that they can live in, pointing out that most of the evacuated people have rented houses in the same area where they have their business and close to where their children go to school.