Shanty town residents are reportedly on edge as government continues to aggressively push towards the eradication of those communities, with one Bahamian-Haitian community leader expressing hope that a mutually beneficial agreement can be reached between government and the soon-to-be displaced populous.
While Labour Minister Dion Foulkes is on record saying the unregulated communities will be torn down, Louby Georges however told Eyewitness News that the minister’s comments have shaken the entire community.
“The entire community reeks with despair and uncertainty,” Georges said.
“Persons are aware that the structures in the villages are unregulated and have been built without permits, so they have no issues with the government doing what is necessary. But at the same time, persons who are Bahamians and living here legally are wondering what will happen to them when the government breaks down the structures and homes.
“So, they are concerned and waiting to hear what the government’s plans are.
Georges revealed that these concerns will be raised during a meeting to be held with the government’s shanty town committee next week.
“Most importantly, we want to know what is going to happen and what are the plans. You have persons who are financially strapped. When you look at the wider population many persons face the same issues that these residents do,” he said.
“We talk about the unemployment rate and job creation in the country and persons wanting ways and means to help themselves – well these shanty town residents fall into that category of Bahamians as well. So, we want to see what the government is going to do in this regard.”
The government recently launched a census to better understand how many people reside within those illegal communities.
Recent reports compiled by the government indicate that there are numerous shantytowns in New Providence, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera and Abaco.
These unregulated communities have existed for many years however, the current government is on record saying it hopes to bring some order to them.
Human rights activist and attorney Fred Smith, QC, told Eyewitness News that the government needs to embrace the residents within these communities.
“Bring Water & Sewerage, bring electricity, bring regulated development and bring building code officers in to start to help to change it. Just like the government does with these same types of communities in Brazil,” he suggested.
“Make these into regulated communities, but you can’t eradicate, surgically remove, bulldoze down people’s communities.”
Moving forward, Georges said he would like for the government to create an educational pamphlet – written in English and Creole – for the Haitian-Bahamian community, to better understand its plans and what is expected of them during the reformation process.