Henfield says govt. is seeking to move rapidly on shantytown issue
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — At least 50 new unregulated structures have been built in The Farm shantytown in Abaco since Hurricane Dorian struck portions of the island last September, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield.
Henfield, who visited the island two weeks ago, was expected to return to Abaco with Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson over the weekend to address the matter.
However, the trip did not proceed.
“The minister of immigration and I had intended to meet with the Haitian community with local government officials, and other government officials in Treasure Cay, Abaco, this past Friday,” he told Eyewitness News.
“That trip did not materialize due to unforeseen circumstances. We just could not make it anymore, and so we are planning to do it as soon as possible, so we can explain to the Haitian community that anybody who has a right to be in The Bahamas is entitled to have a living in The Bahamas, but only in accordance with the laws of The Bahamas.
“It is untenable that people without permits; without possession of title to land would just go and build these communities that we saw pre-Dorian in The Mudd, and in the Peas, and Sandsbanks, and other places in Abaco. The government will not sit idly by and allow these communities to redevelop in this irregular state, which puts those communities, and the surrounding communities in a precarious position. It is just untenable and it cannot happen.”
Earlier this month, Minister of Public Works Demond Bannister said government agencies continue to closely monitor the continued construction of unregulated structures, and had affixed legal notices on every dwelling in the area.
While he was unable to say how many people lived in the Farm Road area, there were an estimated 75 families who remained as of last November.
Three communities were cleared following the Category 5 storm: The Mudd in Marsh Harbour, The Peas and Sandbanks.
However, Farm Road could not be cleared because of the occupants and a court order with respect to how the government ought to proceed.
Following the storm, the government issued a cease order with immediate effect for the four shantytown communities it planned to clear to prevent anyone from building or developing in these areas.
Acknowleding The Bahamas is in another hurricane season; Henfield said the unregulated structures “pose a health risk to the surrounding environment and people who decide to live in these communities put themselves and others at great risk”.
“It is my considered view that any irregular buildings that go on now are being done adverse to the court ruling. I mean the court has stopped the government from removing these communities, but it also said no other buildings, as I recall, should be constructed. And so, I think it’s a matter of enforcing the judgment in the court and then moving forward as rapidly as we can to have these homes, removed.”
Henfield added that legal avenues were also being considered.