Displaced street vendors seek space of their own
Street Vendors in the Torgoman - YOUM7
By NOURHAN MAGDI

CAIRO: Displaced street vendors have demanded licenses for a permanent location after a month of limbo, according to Street Vendors’ Syndicate head Ahmed Hussein.

Many vendors from the downtown area were dispersed from the streets and relocated Aug. 24 under a governmental campaign primarily aimed to ease traffic in the capital.

Since they were moved into a new temporary place called the Torgoman garage, away from pedestrian flow, the vendors have had difficulty adjusting to the new location, and have struggled to find customers.

Approximately 1,700 of them have refused to enter the Torgoman so far, said Hussein to The Cairo Post Tuesday.

“Only 650 vendors who are now in the Torgoman,” said Hussein.

“We need guarantees from the Cairo governorate that Torgoman is just a temporary location and that the government’s promises for a permanent place in Waboor el-Talg are real,” added Hussein.

Hussein said he met with street vendors Monday and reached a decision to relocate the rest of the vendors on a condition “that the governorate start real procedures of finishing the licenses of the vendors in their new place.”

He explained that the vendors fear that if they entered the Torgoman, which they see as “unsuitable,”  the government might withdraw its promises regarding the new relocation.

“The new relocation of the vendors is supposed to be within six months,” said Hussien. “But the preparations of Waboor el-Talg have not taken place yet.”

Waboor el-Talg is currently a garbage dump, and is scheduled to be reclaimed as a vendor space, but the Cairo governorate has neither determined the cost of construction nor the date of the vendors’ relocation.

Government’s bids to appease Torgoman vendors

Although the government has recently adopted some bids to appease street vendors after relocating them to Torgoman, these bids seemed to have failed to contain the vendors’ anger, according to Hussein.

Among the steps that were taken, the Cairo governorate tried to stimulate customer movement by agreeing to establish a bus stop in the area, and opened a discounted school fair there.

But according to Hussein, this is “little more than window dressing.”

“These steps are only in the media and nothing is really on the ground,” Hussein told The Cairo Post. “We agreed to move to the Torgoman garage according to the government’s decision despite our objections, and we decided to stay so that we do not appear as hindering the state’s interest.”

But since the move “none of the vendors have sold anything for more than 15 days. This place is not suitable for the vendors,” Hussein added.

Different reaction to Torgoman crisis

Although street vendors are almost uniformly furious about the relocation, the decision was welcomed by many shop owners in the areas where street vendors used to work.

“This is a very good decision, and they [street vendors] used to make problems,” said Hany Ragab, a shop owner, to Al-Dostor newspaper Aug. 24.

Officials as well believed the government’s campaign is an important move to end traffic problems caused by vendors in the streets.

Following the relocation, Cairo Governor Galal Said said Aug. 25, “Downtown is now clean and free of street vendors due to intensified security presence,” Al-Watan reported.

A campaign to remove unlicensed markets was also expanded to Suez, where the largest unlicensed market in Suez located in El-Arba’een Square was removed Saturday. Four new places were provided for the relocated vendors in Suez to establish their new markets.

The same measures taken against vendors might not be limited only to streets, as a new strategy will be adopted by the National Authority for Tunnels in order to control Metro vendors within the coming months.

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