March 4. 2024. 10:08

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Portugal’s authorities to blame for lack of decent housing, says NGO chief

Macedo spoke in reaction to the fire that broke out on the ground floor of a building in central Lisbon inhabited only by immigrants on Saturday, killing two people, injuring 14, and making 20 homeless.

“These are situations that were signalled a long time ago, by public opinion, by the media, even by local powers, parish councils, Lisbon city council, but nobody did anything,” he said. “Only when there is blood do people react. It is regrettable.”

“This situation is lamentable,” he went on. “People live in precarious situations. It is impossible for people to have housing to live in dignity,” he added.

He stressed that immigrants living in Portugal are helping the country – contributing in an “extraordinary” way to the sustainability of its social security system.

“The housing issue is left for later: there are no decent public policies to solve these problems,” he said. “It is necessary to take a step back and demand that the government and local authorities actually do something. Stop sleeping. It’s enough.”

“We need to react; we need to build housing policies that are dignified and human,” he demanded. This, he stressed, is a matter of human rights: everyone should have access to decent housing. This is, he pointed out, an “old, very old” demand.

“People need a roof over their heads to live,” he added, describing this as a citizen emergency. “It is urgent to wake this sleeping government, the local powers are sleeping,” he went on. “It’s only when cases like this happen that they speak out. That can’t be.”

Macedo also called for “public policies directed towards the right to housing” rather than relying on “policies of charity.”

He dismissed the idea that Portugal has good immigration policies, citing the deadly incident in Mouraria and what “happens with other thousands of immigrants living in similar situations” as disproving it.

“They are scattered throughout the old husk of the city of Lisbon,” he said. “Everyone knows, but nobody does anything.”

“There are more and more fires” in the historic old city, he stressed, blaming in part the local council for a lack of supervision. Housing policy should be defined by the government, no matter whether it applies to the whole country or the city of Lisbon, he added.

People need decent housing and should not be “pushed” into situations that are no more than mere alternatives to living on the street, he also said.

(Susana Venceslau/