Sunday, May 25, 2008

Roma at risk

Silvio Berlusconi wastes no time. Italy has expelled 100 people after a sweep of immigrant squatter encampments, The New York Times reports.

See also: BBC and The Guardian.

The Guardian reports that the cabinet endorsed a new law that allows "confiscation of property let to illegal immigrants, a rule that could have instant and drastic effects on hundreds of thousands of foreigners known to be living in Italy without the right papers."

[a tip of the hat to Gabriel for pointing me to the links.]

Monday, May 19, 2008

deja vu all over again in South Africa

I don't mean to be snide. But some South African cities are reimposing some of the worst excesses of the apartheid era. That's what Marie Huchzermeyer, an architecture professor, argues in a recent issue of the newspaper Business Day.

In Durban, the legislature's policy of policing and fencing off of all vacant land and summarily evicting of any new land invaders, she writes, "reintroduces measures from the 1951 Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act, which was repealed in 1998."

She compares the determination to eradicate shack settlements, no matter the cost (and studies have shown that simply razing peoples homes and forcing them further out of town institutionalizes misery and makes poverty worse) with denying that the HIV virus causes AIDS.

squatting on the rise in the USA

It's a response to the sub-prime meltdown and the tragedy of foreclosures. People without homes while an enormous number of buildings are vacant. Reuters has details.

One sorry point about the article: it features no interviews with squatters themselves, but is almost entirely based on interviews with real estate brokers. This makes it seem like the squatters are manipulating the tragic situation for their own benefit. As if the banks and entities that have foreclosed are not. Some squatters may, indeed, be seeking to profit. But I'm sure there are others who simply need shelter.

To be, as Patrick Chamoiseau has written, is first and foremost to possess a roof.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Whose South Africa?

Le Monde Diplomatique offers a clear-eyed perspective on the inequalities and inequities of the new South Africa, with special focus on the squatter communities.