Madrid calls time on "shameful" shanty town

Tue Jul 28, 2009 12:41pm EDT
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By Emma Pinedo and Ben Harding

MADRID (Reuters) - La Canada Real is Spain's forgotten town.

Twenty minutes from the center of Madrid, 40,000 people live in a place where bare-footed children scamper between shacks and drug addicts shoot up on the pot-holed streets as rubbish trucks rumble past carrying the city's waste.

"It is totally shameful," said local Socialist party politician Maru Menendez, waving at rubbish blowing across the desolate landscape.

Now, 40 years after Moroccans, gypsies and peasants began to make this former sheep track their home, authorities have decided to clean up what is thought to be western Europe's biggest informal settlement.

Many residents are afraid at what they are planning.

"We don't know anything about what the government is going to do here. If they are going to throw us out or not," said Youssef Najah, a 32-year-old Moroccan-born motor mechanic who lives in the smarter Muslim part of town.

His fear stems from a deal struck earlier this month between local councils to remodel La Canada and sweep away its most squalid neighborhoods.

Better streets will be registered, the worst will be bulldozed to make way for a park. Under current laws only the poorest, and those who can prove they have lived there peacefully for five years, will be eligible for a council house.   Continued...

<p>A member of the Akrikez family plays in her home's courtyard at La Canada Real shanty town, on the outskirts of Madrid, July 10, 2009. REUTERS/Francisco Seco</p>