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Social workers count 79 settlements

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 26, 2011) - Seventy-nine squatter settlements have been identified in Fiji and according to a non governmental organization, the size of the settlements are growing because in most cases there are not enough houses available in the city area.

Advocate for the poor, Father Kevin Barr said a survey done by a New Zealand scoping mission group two years ago showed that 15 per cent of Fiji's populations were living in squatter settlements.

He said this figure would have grown as more people look for housing close to the city.

People's Community Network director Semiti Qalowasa said it was not only people who had lost land but people working in the city and not earning enough to support their families in urban centers.

"There are also civil servants including police officers and soldiers who are squatting. The reason is that these people are not able to make do with the income they are earning. The cost of living is going up and people are moving to cheaper housing. The cost of building material is also up. These are the things we have to look at," he said.

He said a new squatter settlement in Waila 3B has been noticed and this, he said, includes people whose leases have not been extended.

"New houses along Veisari and Lami have been spotted with people clearing mangroves to make homes. This is because the Housing Authority and Public Rental Board cannot meet the housing demands of the people," he said.

Minister for Lands Netani Sukanaivalu said the ministry was working closely with the Squatter Unit of the Housing Ministry to help relocate squatters to Tamavua, Waila and other identified areas.

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