Timóteo Macedo
Timóteo Macedo has seized on the latest sorry incidents involving immigrants to Portugal to highlight the real elephant in the room (and not just for immigrants): access to decent housing. Image: Facebook

Immigrant aid group blames central, local government for poor housing

Lisbon’s deadly fire; Olhão beatings have lit a fuse

Timóteo Macedo, President of Portugal’s Immigrant Solidarity Association, has come out today, in the wake of two serious incidents involving immigrants, blaming central and local authorities for the lack of a decent housing policy.

In the context of the fire in an overcrowded Lisbon building, he stressed that situations of housing overcrowding have been known for a long time, but “nobody did anything”.

It’s a carbon copy of complaints that came out of Odemira during the pandemic

Already today PSD leader Luís Montenegro has seen the relevance of events, to call on the government to act.

President Marcelo has also travelled down to Olhão to speak with schoolchildren and visit the Nepali citizen caught in an ugly scene with local thugs.

But as Timóteo Macedo insists, these are knee-jerk reactions; not really convincing.

“These are situations that were signalled a long time ago, by public opinion, by the media, even by local powers, parish councils, Lisbon city council, but nobody did anything,” he told Lusa. “Only when there is blood do people react. It is regrettable.

“This situation is lamentable,” he went on, referring specifically to the hideous fire in Mouraria on Saturday evening. “People live in precarious situations. It is impossible for people to have housing to live in dignity” here.

He stressed that immigrants living in Portugal are helping the country – contributing in an “extraordinary” way to the sustainability of its social security system.

“The housing issue is left for later: there are no decent public policies to solve these problems,” he said. “It is necessary to take a step back and demand that the government and local authorities actually do something. Stop sleeping. It’s enough!

We need to react; we need to build housing policies that are dignified and human,” he insisted.

This, he stressed, is a matter of human rights: everyone should have access to decent housing. This is, he pointed out, an “old, very old” demand.

People need a roof over their heads to live,” he said, describing this as a citizens emergency.

“It is urgent to wake up this government that is sleeping, the local powers are sleeping,” he went on. “It’s only when cases like this happen that they speak out. That can’t be!”

He called for “public policies directed towards the right to housing” rather than relying on “policies of charity.”

He dismissed the idea that Portugal has good immigration policies, citing the deadly incident in Mouraria and what “happens with other thousands of immigrants living in similar situations”.

Immigrants “are scattered throughout the old husk of the city of Lisbon,” he said. “Everyone knows” the appalling conditions in which they are living, “but nobody does anything.

“There are more and more fires” in the historic old city, he added, blaming in part the local council for a lack of supervision.

According to Macedo, it is up to central government to define housing policies that it wants, whether for the country or for the city of Lisbon, but people need decent housing and not to be “pushed” into situations that are no more than mere alternatives to living on the street.

Coincidentally his concerns and accusations will resonate with ordinary working Portuguese who can find it almost just as difficult to find affordable decent housing as immigrant workers.

Source material: LUSA