Human rights advocate Amnesty International has called for “urgent action” to be taken against the forcible mass evictions of families that occurred after the collapse of the Sheikh Mansour Bridge in Cairo’s El-Marg district.
According to the Amnesty report released on Friday, Egyptian authorities evicted at least 1,200 families from their homes near the site of the collapsed bridge in Ezbet Al-Nakhl district in the El-Marg neighbourhood on 18 February.
Human rights lawyers told Amnesty International that the evictions took place in order to build a new bridge in the area, tentatively called the “Mostorod axis”.
Amnesty International’s report said that the government offered 400 families housing in apartments two days after the eviction, but not before being forced to sleep in the streets.
More than 300 families remain displaced and are now living on the streets.
The report said that the evictions were violent, with security forcibly removing people who refused to leave their homes and firing live ammunition into the air as a warning.
“Those who refused to leave their homes were dragged outside and beaten… The government transferred their belongings in garbage trucks and the security forces prevented journalists from entering the area to report the incident,” read the report.
The amount of apartments provided to the residents was based on 2012 census data which residents, lawyers, and community organisers claim is incorrect. The groups said that the actual number of families in the district exceeded 1,200.
“Families also told Amnesty International that they tried to tell the police officers that they did not have alternative housing but were told, ‘It’s not our business’,” read the report.
“One man told a police officer that he would set himself on fire if they demolished his home. The police officer handed him a match and told him that no one would prevent him from doing so.”
Forced eviction is prohibited under international law, and the Egyptian constitution, approved last month by popular referendum, stipulates: “The state guarantees citizens the right to decent, safe and healthy housing, in a way that preserves human dignity and achieves social justice.
Amnesty International demands that all displaced residence receive “alternative housing as a matter of urgency,” and that any future evictions meet the standards prescribed both by international law and the Egyptian constitution.
The Shiekh Mansour Bridge collapsed in the early morning hours of 11 February after the explosion of gas cylinders stored underneath it. A rescue worker and several other people were killed by the collapse.