Sea Citizen Islanders have to leave for a new residential area, but where?: 'They're just building around us'

Sea Citizen Islanders have to leave for a new residential area, but where?: 'They're just building around us'

In addition to Sluisbuurt, which is now under construction in Zeeburgereiland, there is a new residential area: Baaibuurt-West. Good for the housing crisis, but less positive for residents and business people who have been there for decades. They are scheduled to leave by the end of this year, so that the zone will be free for the municipality in the first months of 2025. Muhammad and Beit work and live there, and they have no intention of packing their belongings after all these decades: “This is not humane.”

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Mohamed Qabou has been the proud owner of his garage for at least thirty years. “I've invested a lot in this: money, effort and passion. And now I have to leave,” he said while giving a tour of his building. By order of the municipality, he must leave by the end of this year, so that the process of demolishing and building the new residential area can begin. “I think it's sad, I think it's a real shame for everything I've built.” Neighborhood friend Pete Van Der Berg has come to know the area by heart. He would remain there with his caravan for about three years in the mid-1990s. It ended up being nearly ten times as long.

The plot of land was allocated around 1992 to businesses, creatives and caravan dwellers. They received temporary contracts. For Mohamed, it started with a one-year contract, which was eventually extended so long that the final contract is only now expiring. “And all my customers in this area, and in IJburg, must also have a garage nearby, right? There is nothing else in the area, that's what they say themselves.”

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“They can't just throw all my stuff in the ditch and not provide anything else.”

Muhammad Kabo – garage owner

It's different for Van der Berg: after just over three years, the municipality will find an alternative housing site for them. This has been implicitly extended. Van der Berg: “They haven't taken care of us all these years, and now we have to leave suddenly.” Those three and a half years finally became thirty years. “It is still the municipality’s task to arrange an alternative location,” Van der Berg said.

The municipality says it is helping people on the plot of land find an alternative location. “Yes, we saw a location recently. But there wasn't anything really suitable,” says the fairgrounds operator. “In addition to our motorhomes, there should be room for all the storage space at our fairgrounds in the winter, and it has been said in black and white that we deserve a place in Zeeburg.”

Own responsibility

The municipality agrees that its mission is to find a new place for caravans. “The municipality also understands that it is not easy to find a new place. That is why the municipality has informed all tenants since the summer of 2023 that housing construction plans will now actually start.” A group of Zeeburg residents and business people has already been formed calling for current residents to be included in the new plans, but this is not possible due to land transfer and flooding, according to the responsible councilor's spokesman Van Dantzig.

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It's the end of the story for Muhammad, he has to rely on himself. The municipality stresses that finding a new space is the responsibility of everyone except the caravan residents. For example, students living there have already been accommodated by DUWO at the time of departure. They should actually leave before the end of the year. “This is difficult for me, where is there room for a garage?” The garage owner wonders. “They can't throw everything I have in the ditch and not offer anything else.”

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He can receive compensation of several thousand euros if he indicates that he will leave before the end of March. “What can I buy from this? Maybe just move all my things,” he continued. Like Van der Berg and many other current users, he is not leaving it at that: “I need another place and compensation for the costs we will all incur. This is just not something.”

Van der Berg has little hope: “I don't expect much anymore. But if there's not a good site, I won't be homeless. I'll stay where I am, they're just building around us.”

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