Ria Formosa islanders evicted from parliament as government steamrollers ahead with demolitions

The anguish of Algarvian islanders – hearing yet again in Lisbon today that opposition bids to halt the destruction of their homes had fallen on deaf ears – was rewarded with summary dismissal from the galleries of parliament.

Parliamentary leader Assunção Esteves called for the group’s immediate removal – asking authorities to be “quick” about it.

“This is Parliament,” she said. “Not the streets” – unaware possibly that the streets is where many islanders have already ended up.

Quashing three renewed applications by the PS, PCP and BE to halt the demolition of hundreds of homes in the Ria Formosa communities of Farol and Hangares, the government has now shown itself to be intransigent in the face of every argument.

Even the revelation that “alternative accommodation” promised to islanders with nowhere else to go has proved transitory – with people evicted as soon as they show themselves to be unable to pay the rent – has done nothing to help the islanders’ cause.

To make matters worse, PSD deputies told the house they felt “insulted” by the heckling from the visitors’ galleries, and that their noble house had been “defamed”.

As the band of islanders that had left the Algarve before dawn now faces yet another brick wall, a clearly furious Esteves ruled that the issue had to be addressed by a conference of party leaders.

Unless there is a miracle in the next two weeks, bulldozers are scheduled to start razing selected homes by the lighthouse of Farol, starting on the weekend of Dia da Liberdade.

Islanders have vowed that demolitions may have been ‘peaceful’ up until now, but that will not be the case on Farol or Hangares (due for demolitions on the anniversary of the Apparition of the Virgin at Fátima).

“These days have all been chosen to crush our spirits even further,” campaigners told us when we visited the island last month for our saddening report (see: https://www.portugalresident.com/%E2%80%9Cbarefaced-lies%E2%80%9D-the-truth-behind-environmental-plans-to-cleanse-ria-formosa-of-its-resident).

Reiterating the government’s stand this week, secretary of state for environment Jorge Moreira da Silva said it was time the islands were able to be “enjoyed by the whole population”.

Meantime, coalition bids to get the islands “recognised” ahead of paving the way for quality, sustainable tourism were approved.

According to opposition MPs, “quality, sustainable tourism” simply means “private interests” further down the line.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]