Ria Formosa demolitions: Islanders now “living on the streets”

Homeless || Twelve families have been left homeless – one even living on the streets – following the relentless demolitions ongoing along Ria Formosa estuary.

Público newspaper highlights the desperate situation of 56-year-old Stefan Boti and his wife, living rough on Olhão’s docks since their home was torn down in January.

The couple say the only people who have come to their aid are gypsies, who let them “keep warm by their bonfire” at night.

It is a story that starkly contradicts Environment Minister Jorge Moreira da Silva, who affirmed in Parliament last week that “no house will be torn down without the guarantee that its residents will be rehomed”.

Boti, who had lived in his shanty home on São Lourenço island for the last 13 years, said he went to the town hall the day after his home was bulldozed (January 27), and was told by mayor António Pina that the council was waiting for a response from the Environment Minister to “resolve the problem”.

A return visit saw no joy.

In desperation, Boti, his wife and daughter-in-law moved into an empty council home in Siroco. They spent the night there but were evicted by police the following morning.

By the afternoon, the council had covered the doors and windows with bricks.

“We have been treated worse than animals,” Boti told Público.

Pina told the paper the family was moved on because others were in line for council housing, and every one “deserved to be treated equally”.

The mayor repeated that the rehousing of Boti and other islanders should be the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment.

Meantime, Sebastião Teixeira, the president of Sociedade Polis – the entity behind the demolitions – claims rehousing should be carried out by Olhão council, Sociedade Polis and social security services.

Thus, as responsibility is juggled like a hot potato, islanders are left fending for themselves.

Izidoro Martim, previously from São Lourenço, is reported to be living in his daughter’s one-bedroom apartment with two other adults and two children.

He told Público that he held out in his home “for as long as possible” but in the end the bulldozers tore everything down.

That same night, he and other islanders set up camp on the island – only to be told by maritime police that they each risked a “€1,000 fine” if they stayed any longer.

Opposition parties call for suspension of demolitions

Socialist and Communist Parties (PS and PCP) are requesting urgent meetings with the Environment Ministry. The PS wants the government to hear the residents of Culatra, Hangares and Farol islands before their homes are torn down, while the PCP is demanding that the demolitions are suspended forthwith.

By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]

Photo by: SARA ALVES/OPEN MEDIA