Homeowners from the Ria Formosa islands protested today in front of, and then inside the Faro council building in a bid to change the mindset of mayor Rogério Bacalhau and to persuade him to help, rather than go along with the government sponsored house demolitions that already are making people homeless.
The ‘Je Suis ilhéu' protesters want Bacalhau to ‘approach the situation differently’ as the inhabitants of Farol and Hangares now have received notices to leave their homes, or be charged for the destruction of their own properties.
Some islanders that already have been evicted and their homes torn down have been provided with temporary accommodation for three months, after which they have to pay rent which they can not afford and are then likely to be evicted for a second time.
"We want the mayor to admit that the process is wrong" and actively to join the struggle of the inhabitants of these islands according to José Lezinho, interviewed by Sul Informação.
Getting nowhere fast by remaining peacefully outside waiting for an invisible mayor, the council workers having left for lunch via a rear door, the protest moved into the council building which, according to protestors, resulted in the arrival of two vanloads of police and three police cars with five officers in each.
The forces of law and order rushed into the building, pushed and shoved men, women and elderly protestors back outside and then made them all stay put outside.
The ratio of one officer for every two protestors ensured that the islanders were contained and felt unable to express their democratic and social needs, according to those gathered.
Bacalhau appear at around 14.30, did at least agree to meet representatives from the various settlements on Culatra and later announced that he would "schedule a meeting with the Minister" so that the protesters can voice their arguments.
This less than robust response has become Bacalhau’s trademark, along with his habit of executing perfect U-turns.
The protestors maintain that their presence on the island does not cause any environmental damage - one of the reasons they are being evicted, the other being the equally questionable assertion that it is dangerous to live there if there is a high tide or storm and they need rescuing.
The protestors say that these reasons are just excuses and the demolition of their homes, homes registered at the town hall with rates, water and electricity supplies in place, is to make way for ‘quality tourism,' something the government denies but which is not believed by anyone south of the Tagus.
For the people of Hangares, many of whose ancestors worked there in support of the British Navy in WWI, they have to be out by May 11th.
At issue are "156 homes at Hangares and more than 270 homes at Farol. In Hangars there will only be three properties left standing,” said Lezinho to a Sul Informaçao reporter, adding that “these are real lives, some have lived here for five generations. Many people already are old. How do you explain to these people that they have to leave?"
At the end of WWI a Naval Aviation Centre for the Algarve began to be built on the Island in order to operate seaplanes designed for anti-submarine patrols.
Although partially constructed and used for the purpose of the War the Centre was never officially activated and its facilities used later as a support base for a naval firing range.
I had been told by islanders that this was a British Navy initiative, but may have been Portuguese.
Anyone else know more details?