Slums. Overcrowded, unsanitary and dangerous. Home to one billion people around the world, according to the UN. Ahmed* was one of these people – living in a Moroccan slum with his wife and their two children. Crime was common and easy access to amenities like clean water a luxury.
Understandably, Ahmed was excited when he heard about a new national programme to improve the lives of slum dwellers. ‘Cities without Slums’ planned to eliminate slums in Morocco by providing subsidised housing options to the urban poor.
As part of this programme, the local government planned to move the 120 families living in Ahmed’s slum to a new location. Families would be provided with a plot of land with access to basic services such as roads, sanitation, drinking water and electricity, for a subsidised price. Two local officials were responsible for compiling a list of those living in the slum. These civil servants reportedly asked the heads of families in the slum for unofficial, private payments amounting to around US $250 to receive plots of land and US $630 for a certificate of residency – a third of an average yearly income.
Residents said they were told that if they did not pay, then their homes in the slum would be destroyed, and they would not be allocated a new plot of land.
Refusing to hand over money for a service that should have been free, Ahmed’s home was destroyed and only those who paid the illegal charges were issued new plots of land. Ahmed’s family and many others found themselves evicted and homeless.
After hearing from a friend about Transparency International’s chapter, Transparency Maroc, Ahmed went to them for help. Transparency Maroc advised him to gather together the other slum residents who had also been denied a new plot of land, and to write a group letter of complaint to the city’s governor. They never received a response to their letter. However, after it was sent, the civil servants who demanded the illegal fees were transferred. Their replacement has promised them that he will work to swiftly resolve their situation. Transparency Maroc will be checking to make sure this happens.
*Names have been changed.