COMPLEX ISSUE: No demolition ‘celebration’ says Abaco Chamber President on shanty town matter

COMPLEX ISSUE: No demolition ‘celebration’ says Abaco Chamber President on shanty town matter

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Abaco’s Chamber of Commerce president cautioned against celebrating the demolition of shanty towns on the island, noting that the issue is a complex situation, with the island’s immigrant population having played a major role in the post-Dorian rebuild.

“Persons took advantage of being able to rebuild without anyone checking in the early days. Then when they did discover that rebuilding was taking place, the government, in my opinion, was a little slack or wasn’t proactive in bringing a halt to it quickly enough before it got out of hand,” Daphne DeGregory Mailous, the Abaco Chamber of Commerce president told Eyewitness News.

“Rebuilding occurred fast and furious, and I don’t want to say shanty towns but huge sites where buildings have been erected without electricity, water, or sewerage systems. They are a health hazard and fire hazard more than anything because there is nothing regulated.”

Ministry of Works officials have reportedly issued over 400 eviction notices across three shanty towns in Abaco, setting the stage for one of the largest shanty town demolition exercises in the country’s history.

“The land these persons are on might be land leased for agricultural purposes. The people who are leasing the land and collecting rent should be locked up. Those are the first people the government should go after, the ones who have violated their leases. It is as much the landowner’s fault as it is the illegal persons trying to survive.

“I don’t fault the illegal building; I fault those who have contributed to it by providing the land and the opportunity. If you are a refugee for whatever reason and you find an opportunity to put a roof over your head, that’s called survival. When they demolish these buildings, what provisions are in place for the people who reside there?  We also have to look at this from a humanitarian standpoint and offer some kind of solution,” de Gregory Mailous noted. 

She continued: “The fact is the Bahamas needs these workers. If we didn’t need them and they couldn’t find jobs, they wouldn’t be here. We need to find ways to accommodate these people so the country can operate at the level it needs to operate at and not create a workplace void.

“It’s a very complex situation and we have to take into account every aspect. These are human beings who are contributing to our work through our island developments. There is no one simple answer to this situation.

“We shouldn’t just be celebrating demolition and think these people will be gone. It doesn’t work like that. The immigrant population played a major role in Abaco’s rebuild. If they weren’t earning an income, why would they be here? If they’re finding employment, there is absolutely a need for them,” she added.

Mrs DeGregory-Mailous suggested that the individuals who hire persons living in unregulated communities should be called upon to assist them in finding living accommodations.