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Dean: Solutions must address squatters’ needs

on 05 April 2010.

SQUATTERS are a public issue that need to be addressed in a holistic manner by the government and private sectors.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences Associate Pro­fessor Dr Spencer Empading Sanggin said no one wanted to live as squatters and therefore, short and long-term solutions were essential to help them get out of such poor living conditions.

One of the immediate solutions was relocating them to low-cost housing; while for the long-term, provide them with employment opportunities and good education for their children so that they could break the poverty cycle.

However, he said the government’s relocation efforts often met with resistance because the individual needs of squatters were not consulted and met.

“A study on squatters needs to be carried out in detail in order to come up with the best solutions for different categories of squatters.

“Some squatters have special needs like the hardcore poor, the elderly and single mothers, who really cannot afford to live in low-cost housing. So you cannot have one policy for all,” he told The Star.

Dr Empading said a study by one of his students on urban squatters and issues in resettlement revealed that a majority of squatters in Kuching were willing to be resettled.

“But they will be reluctant if the site for their relocation is too far from their work place,” he said, adding that the new site should have basic amenities to ensure the success of the resettlement scheme.

He said squatters should be consulted thoroughly and compensated in cash or kind as a way to help them rebuild their lives.

“Squatters deserve a fair amount of attention from society like any other citizen of this country.

“After all, they are our own people who do not happen to be as lucky as some of us. They are not migrants,” he said.

Dr Empading said resettling squatters in urban areas was a delicate task because it involved political, economic and social interests which were difficult to balance in the best circumstances.

Therefore, he said consideration should be given to individuals and different groups of squatters.

 

Source: The Star Online

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