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Posted by portugalpress on March 12, 2018

Portugal’s president was on inimitable form when he arrived in the Algarve on Saturday to see last weekend’s storm damage for himself, and offer words of comfort and hope to the scores of gypsy families whose homes were smashed to smithereens the week before.

Taking time to shake as many hands and kiss as many upturned faces as possible, the country’s head of state used the initiative to ensure the gypsies’ future is properly addressed, even if only in the short-term.

Last week, mayor Rogério Bacalhau told reporters: “As soon as conditions permit, these people will have to return to the places where they have lived for many years. We are studying solutions for the future but we do not have a solution for all the gypsy communities in the borough”.

Marcelo’s message was that that kind of attitude is not enough.

“To resolve the most pressing question (of housing), the minister of the environment will be here on Monday with the secretary of state for housing who will study this situation”, he explained, dubbing the issue one that “must be treated” as a joint initiative between “central public entities and the council”.

“From what I understand there are various social situations where people need homes that the council needs to satisfy. They don’t all have to do with this community. This has to be taken on board. A formula must be reached so that there is no longer what we know today should not exist: segregation, separation and distancing. There has to be community integration”, the president stressed. “And that starts with housing”.

Reinforcing his message with the diplomacy he uses so well, he added: “Society in general has to understand that it is in its interest to accept the integration of everyone. No one should be left out if we want to be as upright and just as our Constitution demands.

“It is important that all communities should want to integrate, want their children and grandchildren to integrate, study, have a profession and exercise those rights without discrimination”.

While elsewhere efforts to bring gypsy communities into the mainstream appear to have failed, President Marcelo deftly drew a new line in the sand: they do not need to fail anymore. There needs to be efforts from all sides, and they need to start now.

In an atmosphere where suddenly everything seemed possible, Faro’s mayor Rogério Bacalhau was quoted as saying: “We have to construct a solution together which may not be definitive but will have to be decent until we have a definitive solution”.

It was a long way from his message of the week before. And thus the day progressed ‘Marcelo-style’ with hope and energy.

The president who has today set off for a three-day working visit to Greece also took time to view the devastation wreaked on local producers who heard that the government will be setting aside €3.6 million in agricultural support.

Whether it will be enough for growers who lost everything in the low-density tornado that struck two Sundays ago is the question. State help will only cover a percentage of damage, and as one producer explained, that may not be enough for those worst affected.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com

Photos: BRUNO PIRES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP

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