11 Mar 2005

Fiji NGO criticises government proposal for squatter unit

4:18 pm on 11 March 2005

Fiji NGO, the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy, says the government needs to look at underlying factors if it wants to resolve country's huge squatter problem.

ECREA's director Aisake Casimira says the government's proposed squatter patrol unit is preposterous and with forceful removal of squatters, would be akin to a fascist police squad.

About 90,000 people, or 10 percent of Fiji's population, live in squatter settlements close to urban centres.

But Mr Casimira says setting up the squatter patrol to prevent people settling in unauthorised areas is not addressing the main causes of the problem which are unemployment and expiry of land leases.

"To have a unit for squatters - and evidently most squatters are disempowered and poor people - and yet you don't have a unit to patrol or even monitor those people who don't pay taxes. And until alternative solutions are found in terms of land and housing the argument is that these people cannot be removed until those solutions are there."

ECREA's director Aisake Casimira.