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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Three days later, Musheireb residents still struggling after eviction

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Musheireb eviction

With reporting from Riham Sheble

Days after several hundred men were forcibly evicted from their homes in downtown Doha, many are still struggling to deal with being displaced; some have even snuck back into their accommodations.

Speaking to Doha News on Friday, several expats affected by the evictions said the last three days have been a nightmarish experience, exacerbated by the searing heat and a lack of food, water and electricity.

Many acknowledged that they did receive eviction notices prior to being removed from their homes, but said they paid little attention to the fliers because they were in Arabic.

Musheireb eviction

The Asmakh area of Musheireb includes a handful of newish, larger apartment buildings, and dozens of flat-roofed, shack-like structures.

One notice, which was posted last week on several of the small shacks, states that resident would have to evict within three days, that they had been previously notified that electricity would be cut off, and that the ISF would be enlisted to help enforce the evictions of remaining tenants.

But many said they ignored these fliers because they could not read Arabic. The vast majority of people staying in area from South Asian countries, including India, Nepal and Pakistan.

Qatar has big plans for the Musheireb area, and many of the ramshackle buildings there are slated to be demolished to make way for more upscale developments.

But this creates a posed a problem for the thousands of people who currently live in these homes – many only make QR1,000 to QR1,800 a month, and say they don’t know where else they can afford to go.

Occupancy

During last week’s raid, the buildings in the Asmakh area were not been completely emptied. Families living there have apparently been given a few weeks to move.

Speaking to Doha News, a Yemeni ministry worker said that when the police saw his wife and children, they agreed to let them live in the area until the end of Ramadan.

Others without families have also been granted a few weeks’ stay, after their employers negotiated with developer Ezdan Real Estate.

When reached for comment about the evictions, a representative at Ezdan told Doha News:

“Regarding this particular location – the participation of Ezdan is we’re just making the contract between the government and tenants there. This decision to oust them is not within Ezdan’s realm. It’s within the government.”

It is not clear which government entity is involved with the evictions. The Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning typically serves notice to tenants in the event that a building is slated for demolition. But the MMUP has not returned a request for comment.

Returning to sleep

During the daytime on Friday, the area where the evictions took place appeared to be littered with garbage and pieces of furniture.

After Internal Security Forces (ISF) removed tenants from their buildings on Tuesday night, police began routinely patrolling the area to check for stragglers.

According to shopkeepers, many of those who lost their homes vacate the area during the day, but return after sunset. Speaking to Doha News, one store manager in the area who asked not to be named said:

“The police have been here every night since (the eviction). Around eight or nine cars showed up on (Thursday) night.

During the day, (the former tenants) go to work, or go to their friends’ to escape the heat. In the night, they come back here to sleep on the streets. But the police come and remove them. If they talk back, they are beaten or pushed and taken away in police cars.”

Abdullah Sayed, who spoke to Doha News previously, said he lived in a large building and has managed to sneak back into his apartment without attracting any repercussions.

The reprieve is sure to be temporary, but his situation appears considerably better than many of those who lived in the shacks, where electricity and power have been cut off completely.

Speaking to Doha News, N.A, a 33-year-old Indian mason who preferred not to be named, said:

“We’ve gone three days without food. We fast in the mornings, but don’t have money for food once iftar starts. Last night, we begged for food from our friends and ate. I had one roti (Indian flatbread) after fasting all day.”

According to the Gulf Times, many of the men living in the area had bought food and other items from restaurants and shops on credit. Their eviction may have made it more difficult to buy things in these places before paying off their existing tabs.

He said he spent the night sleeping amid rubble in a cordoned-off area behind the Musheireb dwellings. Because the ISF has put up metal barriers around the perimeter, access to the alleys and lanes in the area has been limited.

Musheireb rubble

Others who spoke to Doha News said that they have been sleeping at their friends’ apartments – in their basements, or below their beds.

Some return to the area to collect their belongings, and must show ID at one of two manned gates, checks that have come up after complaints about thefts this week.

While the gates have been a feature for around three months, residents said that they had only been enforced after the initial evictions.

Lack of options

For most of the displaced, it’s the lack of options, not the evictions themselves, that are most concerning.

Qatar is in the midst of a housing crunch right now, particularly lacking the ability to accommodate those with limited incomes.

Just this month, an international firm released a report predicting that “Doha’s residential real estate market will continue to remain significantly under-supplied over the next five years.”

One of the over 60 workers who gathered to voice their concerns to Doha News yesterday said:

“They’re breaking down all the places where there are affordable housing for us. We’ve tried Wakra, Najma, and have found nothing. We have nowhere to go, and no one to go to for help.”

None of the former tenants who spoke to Doha News said they have gone to their embassies.

Musheireb eviction

When contacted for comment, representatives of both the Indian and Nepali embassies stated that unless the workers file an official complaint with them, no action can be taken to help.

However, workers said they are wary of going to the embassy, fearing them ineffectual.

Hussein, a 38-year-old Bangladeshi expat gas station attendant who has been staying with a friend, said:

“Our embassies won’t do anything. They won’t even open their doors for us. What can they do if we call them? They’ll tell us to find housing. I don’t need to call them to know that.”

He added that his accommodation used to cost him QR 350/month, coming out of his monthly QR1,200 salary.

Meanwhile, most of the displaced said they haven’t been to work since Wednesday.

“We haven’t eaten or slept in days, how can we work?” Hussein said.

While some employers have allowed them to take a few days off to find new lodging, most said that their companies remain apathetic to their situation.

“All they care about is that we show up to work, to complete the tasks. Aside from that, they don’t care about much – not our food, or our housing,” said another evicted resident.

Some residents who spoke to Doha News placed the blame on the landlords who were in charge of individual houses. They said that they were told that the landlords had either withheld the rent the tenants had paid from Ezdan, or had absconded with the money entirely.

What’s next

In response to the evictions, community website ILoveQatar.net is working on creating a charity drive to help the displaced find housing.

Speaking to Doha News, organizer Ramy Khalaf said the group is waiting the launch the drive once it can give potential donors a clearer picture of what has happened. He continued:

“We’ve decided to go ahead with the charitable cause under the iLoveQatar umbrella regardless of the circumstances under which they were evicted…

The plan is to try and find them accommodation, have it paid out for a reasonable amount of time that would allow them to get back on their feet and maybe find a permanent place to stay, then get the workers settled in.”

For now, the immediate concern of the hundreds displaced is bearing the heat without a roof over their heads during Ramadan.

Some who spoke to Doha News expressed a desire to leave Qatar to go back to their countries, saying:

“In India and Nepal, at least we can sleep on the roads. Here, we can’t even do that. We came to this country thinking ‘Oh, we’re going abroad (to make money).’ It’s only when we got here that we came to know about the reality of the situation.”

Thoughts?

Note: This article has been updated to include information about tenants buying food and other items in neighborhood stores on credit.

37 COMMENTS

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Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
7 years ago

not enough cheap affordable housing and hundreds of empty expensive apartments…. fantastic

johnny wang
johnny wang
7 years ago

……..They have big plans for the Musheireb area, and many of the ramshackle buildings there are slated to be demolished to make way for more upscale developments…….. and perhaps they have plans to move this guys later to this new upscale developments provided they can afford to pay the new upscale rents

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago

Maybe they could just put them out of their misery and deport them back home. I can’t imagine what it is like to sleep in this weather and have hardly anything to eat.

wee_johnnie
wee_johnnie
7 years ago

Why not turn some of those Iftar Tents into a temporary shelter? They have air conditioning and can give relief until this situation is resolved.

Mr. Q (a.k.a. amnesia)

I hope this will be sorted soon.
One thing I’m unsure of is how they are suddenly hungry? If they didn’t have to pay the last month’s rent they should have more money and not having an accommodation shouldn’t mean they couldn’t eat unless they were spending their food money on rent (which they aren’t since they are still searching for accommodation).

Aussiegirl
Aussiegirl
7 years ago

I see where you are going with your comment but maybe these people are used to buying cheaper fresh food and rice and cooking it in their accommodation rather than buying ready made meals which is more expensive. For us the few riyals difference may not seem like much but for them on such meagre wages it adds up to a lot.

Mr. Q (a.k.a. amnesia)
Reply to  Aussiegirl

You are correct. But the numbers don’t make sense. They used to have money for food for a whole month for whatever they usually eat. It’s been three days and they have been starving already. Now if they were let’s say 10 days in and then started to starve because they had to buy more expensive food because they couldn’t cook that would make more sense.

I feel for them, that’s why ILQ is trying to help them out, I am just questioning how they couldn’t eat if they now have more money to spend.

I also want to know if there are any homeless shelters in Qatar

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
7 years ago

there are sandwiches sold in some diners for less than 5 QR so even on their low salary there’s no way you don’t have enough money to stop yourself from starving. but its possible as they weren’t aware of the eviction they already spent most of their salary on foods that they need to cook

guest
guest
7 years ago

You guys must be blind, try walking in other’s shoes for a while.
People on very low salaries live on nothing much. Can’t afford it.
Small corner shops often offer credit but who will do this when the area is being demolished.
I had a group of workers building a wall near our house, Working all day, lunch consisted of two breadcakes and water during the ten hours or so they were there. Next day they had two teacakes each, Were they doing this for weight loss? Of course not, there is great poverty in Qatar as evidenced by the building workers living in the partially constructed buildings.
Sandwiches for less than 5 QR are a luxury they cannot afford.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
7 years ago
Reply to  guest

i know there is poverty but were talking about this particular group and the connection between loosing your home and not having enough money for food. unless if they already didnt have enough money to feed themselfs regardless of there state of accommodation but the article gives the impression that because they were evicted they can no longer afford food

Jen
Jen
7 years ago

QR5 –need to eat at least 2 or 3 times a day–let’s say QR10-a day–QR300 for a month! No-they cant afford that.
One way to help generally, if you shopping, look at the person in front or behind of you–if it is a worker put his groceries on your bill–often less than QR10–a fortune for them but highly affordable for us. ( Not saying you Mohammed, I was just replying to your post on the sandwhiches and then changed focus–talking in general, as a way to help temporarily for all workers. Each small action helps).

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
7 years ago
Reply to  Jen

point is how does being evicted have to do with being unable to pay for food anymore? how was this particular group able to afford meals before but is now unable, there was no reduction in salary and there not paying rent.

Talib
Talib
7 years ago

It is not easy to understand their plight. check with any grocer, their food items and others are usually on credit maybe 2 months or more. So naturally when they are evicted , no source for credit. To let you know , these laborers send whatever they can to their families and installments to whomever they borrowed money from their country

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
7 years ago
Reply to  Talib

“So naturally when they are evicted , no source for credit”

why? source of credit is the salary from there job. not there accomodation

“To let you know , these laborers send whatever they can to their families and installments to whomever they borrowed money from their country”

yeah i know, sending as much as they can back home is the reason 99% of them are here

Talib
Talib
7 years ago

Lol,,, some of you live to argue forever.. Your first point is countered by your reply to the second point…. they send all their salary home!!!

If you can help these guys , please do so.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
7 years ago
Reply to  Talib

one would assume they dont send the entire salary home, keep at least a few hundred riyals out of the 1000-1800. if they do send all of it regardless of there state of living then there eviction has nothing to do with the fact that there starving

Talib
Talib
7 years ago

I have talked to a few here and all if them send their entire pay or almost home.. When I argued that they need emergency savings here for their own survival as u mentioned, their reply was that they don’t mind begging and some of them dint mind starving, which is wat they are doing now,
We know about this now because of the story being picked up, otherwise they would just be on the roads hoping for some kindness from passersby or any big Qatari houses in the locality

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
7 years ago
Reply to  Talib

so the fact that they dont have enough saved for food has nothing to do with there eviction, rather its a very sad but unrelated problem. hopefully theres an iftar tent somewhere near the area

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago

Please, there are many iftar tents all over Doha, and knowing that area I’m sure there are more than one!

Huzz
Huzz
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

I think that everybody here has valid points relating to these people being hungry and homeless on both sides. The truth like with everything else lies somewhere between the two sides. The basic facts of the case are that a large number of people have been evicted from their “homes” probably with notice and now have nowhere to go.

A quick summary:

Many evicted
Notice given in someone’s language.
Low income workers with little language skills / education (I don’t mean to offend by this)
Done during the holy month of Ramadan.
No thought put into where they would go.
A new problem created by having these people sleeping rough.
Sponsor not taking up the slack or giving adequate support.
Problem perhaps to be compounded in the future when thousands more low income workers arrive to continue construction projects with inadequate housing provided.

I guess the number of low income workers outnumber other groups by a great majority, a majority that will only increase in the years to come. I can foresee a time when these workers decide that enough is enough and rise up against their masters. It will only take a few incidents to kick the whole process off. Recall the recent incident at the Sheraton. Now this has occurred. Wide scale public disorder is never very far away.

Ali
Ali
7 years ago
Reply to  Huzz

Some underlying beliefs that worse such situations instead of improving them:

Dehumanizing poor people; if a person is poor, he/she should be content with awful conditions, never desire contact with the opposite gender, never have a desire to go to parks or malls on their days off, not desire to see their families more than once in a year or 2, never want to go home when their “sponsor” does not want them to, be happy to live in indentured servitude

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago
Reply to  Talib

It’s funny how you accused Mohammed of liking to argue forever, but in the end you admit that the problem of not having food has nothing to do with their eviction, but rather the choices they made regarding how much money to keep.

Talib
Talib
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

I stick to my first post, because they were evicted they could not get any food stuff on credit from the local grocer, the unrelated problem became more apparent by the eviction .

And well trying to prove my point wrong will not in anyway help those laborers live a decent life which could have been avoided if their sponsors took Gud care of them.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago

Actually, according to the original story, 2 months rent was not collected. And you’re right, it doesn’t make sense.

Airwolf
Airwolf
7 years ago

http://www.moi.gov.qa/site/english/contactDept/index.html
Ask for mercy and more kindness. Temporory stay in enforcement to help these helpless people

Waveydavey
Waveydavey
7 years ago

They have been given a few days off by the employers to sort out their situation. Why not give them a bit of money or help them to sort it out??!!! Ggggrrrrrrrrrrr

Airwolf
Airwolf
7 years ago

Contact nhrc to ask for intervention
http://www.nhrc-qa.org/en/contact-us/

Big Biker
Big Biker
7 years ago

There is a storm brewing here in Qatar. The country needs these people but doesn’t have an answer or seem to care about supplying affordable accommodation and ensuring their companies honour their contracts and pay them on time.

guest
guest
7 years ago

It happened before. Huge areas of cheap housing demolished before the Asian Games in 2006 resulted in families living in cars, garages, derelict buildings etc.
Qatar must really get it’s act together on this and ensure alternatives are available before wholesale demolitions.
The world is watching Qatar now and actions like this are a real Own Goal!

Observant One
Observant One
7 years ago
Reply to  guest

They simply don’t care.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago

Some thoughts:

“Many acknowledged that they did receive eviction notices prior to being removed from their homes” Why was this detail missing from the original story?

“We’ve gone three days without food. We fast in the mornings, but don’t have money for food once iftar starts. Last night, we begged for food from our friends and ate. I had one roti (Indian flatbread) after fasting all day.” There are charitable iftar tents all over Doha, why not go to any one of them? Moreover, I don’t understand what being evicted has to do with being able to buy food. If you don’t have money to buy food then not being evicted would not have helped with that.

Last, if the employer will not help and you cannot find affordable housing, then just go to the police and tell them you want to be deported. From the cases I know the employer will be brought and forced to cough up the price of the ticket.

KBr
KBr
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

It is good to know there are some resolutions to these
people’s problems. Nevertheless, the comments are made on the assumption that
this information is easily accessible. However, as stated in the article these
people cannot read Arabic. It is probably fair to guess that their English is
weak too. I have worked with disadvantage people in developed nations all over
the world and bureaucracy and literacy barriers are biggest issues in stifling
people from resolving negative situations in which they find themselves. You
need a high level of literacy in either Arabic or English here to read the
government websites. Even then it is still tricky to navigate the systems in
order to take positive action. In addition to access these websites you need
the internet. For the most disempowered and poor in any society this is not
easy. Out of interest is there a website that lists charitable iftar tents are
in Doha? I wonder if it would be possible for someone to provide some leaflets
to these people’s in their native language informing them of the local
charitable iftar tents.

theobserver
theobserver
7 years ago

one stadium with its CO2-free cooling technology would suffice to accommodate these poor souls.

Qatar must show a true leadership by taking a proper care of its expat guests(I hate using the term “labor”).

Btw, it would be great if Doha News would take a leadership here and start a donation campaign to help share the cost of accommodation for our underprivileged colleagues?

Paul
Paul
7 years ago

It all depends how it was handled; in a humane way or not. Having said that, in principle, illegally occupying someone’s property is against any law in any country. If the government wouldn’t have done anything, public opinion would criticize the inhabitable conditions. Rents are way too high: allowing 20 people to stay in a villa will not create an incentive to the landlord to lower the rent nor provide humane living conditions.

johnny wang
johnny wang
7 years ago

Well even if the notices were put on the wall in Arabic which perhaps none of the guys staying at this places understand or understood… the humane thing in such situations is not for the authorities to chase people out during the month of Ramadan or at such times when the weather situation is so bad and terrible. Something really does not seem right about such happenings

BBCA
BBCA
7 years ago

Thats just how they roll in Qatar man. I guess you can say that there are a lot worse places but during Ramadan? …come on man!

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