As the clock ticks towards the day government-backed bulldozers are scheduled to start knocking down their homes, Ria Formosa islanders made a last ditch appeal to Faro mayor Rogério Bacalhau, and heard – to their delight – that two legal bids put in by householders facing eviction from their homes at Faro beach have been upheld.
“It could be that things at last are changing,” campaigner Vanessa Morgado told us.
For now, islanders have put their case in clear, succinct terms.
The audience at Faro Câmara yesterday afternoon followed chaotic scenes last month when police were called to clear demonstrating islanders from the council building.
The small band of representatives protesting against Polis Litoral’s brief to demolish 800 homes on the basis that they endanger the Ria’s sustainability were promised a subsequent audience and advised to bring one representative for each community on the island.
This is what went ahead yesterday, with the inhabitants’ story presented by Vanessa Morgado, reading from a prepared text.
As already covered by the Resident, the thrust of the islanders’ argument against demolitions is that their homes are not prejudicing the environment in any way – in fact they could be said to be preserving it.
Demolitions that have gone ahead on Ilhote das Ratas have now seen the sea invade the island totally at high tide – to the extent that it can no longer be seen.
The government’s continued assertions that islanders are illegal is also challenged, as almost all the families living permanently on the long island were encouraged to go there by previous governments.
As to “legality”, they stress they have all paid rates, utility bills and “built their homes with the consent of the local authority of the time”.
Calling the government’s plan “the extermination and genocide of a community”, the islanders appeal to Bacalhau was simple. “You told us you would try to do everything in your power to help us… have you?”
As Vanessa told us: “I looked him various times in the eyes when I read our words.”
Thus next week, islanders are hoping for some news.
Their campaign website is equipped with a time clock now, showing the days, hours, minutes and seconds counting down to the demolition of what they effectively say is their lives.
Are they terrified? The answer is: if they are, they are not showing it.
José Lezinho ended yesterday’s hearing in front of Faro Câmara warning that time is running out and “if nothing is done, there will be a disgrace because we will not stand aside and let our homes be destroyed”.
It’s a warning that is becoming increasingly loud as the clock moves towards next weekend’s April 25 Liberty Day deadline.
Photo: SARA ALVES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP