At the 11th hour, the government has agreed to spare Algarve families from the pain and horror of seeing their only homes demolished.
As the Resident revealed last week (see: https://www.portugalresident.com/heartbreak-in-paradise-as-government-tears-down-islanders%E2%80%99-homes), low-income families living in makeshift “illegal” homes on the islands along Ria Formosa have been threatened with eviction on the grounds of “environmental concerns” for years.
The current PSD-CDS-PP coalition government has been described by Algarve PSD MP Elsa Cordeiro as the “only government brave enough” to send bulldozers in.
But the demolitions spell heartbreak for a number of families who have nowhere else to go.
And at last the government has relented.
On the day bulldozers moved in on the Ilhote das Ratas, Olhão mayor António Pina told newspapers that the “minister of the environment has guaranteed that there will only be demolitions of homes of primary habitation when re-housing solutions exist”.
It is a huge “win” for the local council as well as the families. Meantime, Pina has lambasted the demolitions, declaring not only that they are illegal but that the Sociedade Polis Litoral fund that is paying for them is one to which the council will no longer be subscribing.
Calling the demolitions the “most violent and disproportionate” measures ever implemented by a government against its population, Pina said Sociedade Polis had brought no benefits to the people of Olhão and had been a completely “wasted opportunity”.
As the Resident wrote last year, of the €17 million being spent on the demolition of 808 shanty homes and “restoration of the land to Nature”, not one “cêntimo” is left to guarantee poor families’ rehousing (see: https://www.portugalresident.com/government-prepares-to-spend-%E2%82%AC17-million-on-ria-formosa-demolitions).
The plan, which has been described as an outrage by PCP MP Paulo Sá, is steeped in further controversy as there has been the suggestion that the government is simply using the environment as a ruse, and that once the islanders are banished, the marine paradise will be given over to VIP tourism.
For now, Mayor Pina guarantees that the council will be watching everything very carefully.
Talking to newspapers on Tuesday, he affirmed that “rehousing is the responsibility of Sociedade Polis Litoral” and if this is not complied with “we are ready to intervene”.
For islanders who had criticised their mayor for what they saw as his lack of support over their dilemma, these words could not have come at a better time.
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]
Photo: Carlos Fernandes, his wife and daughter are pictured in front of their only home on Ilha de São Lourenço. His house may now be spared from demolition, making him and his family the only residents on the island
Photo by: SARA ALVES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP