Social Services: No victims have requested assistance after massive shanty town fire

Social Services: No victims have requested assistance after massive shanty town fire
Firefighters battle a massive blaze in a shanty town village at Pink Meadow Road off Bellot Road on Februrary 5, 2023.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Acting Deputy Director of Social Services Lorraine Duvalier yesterday called on the public to be compassionate after 40 registered Haitian nationals lost their homes to a fire on Saturday.

Duvalier reported there were 40 individuals who were registered to the department when they visited the site; however, she said that no victims had requested assistance from the government up to Monday.

When Eyewitness News visited the scene yesterday, one man said that he slept in the bush the previous night since his documents were lost in the blaze.

After receiving his first working permit in 1999, the resident expressed grief and uncertainty over his future due to the fire incident.

“I lost my truck and I don’t see nowhere I could go,” he said.

“I paid $4,000 February past. Right? February 11 coming, I have to pay $2,000 for my working permit. We pay taxes too,” the man added.

According to the shanty town resident, although he has been consistently paying for his work permits, sometimes they are robbed by their employers and feel like they have no voice in the situation.

Meanwhile, one area resident said that the members of the small shantytown at Pink Meadow Road off Bellot Road have never given her an issue.

The Bahamian resident said she wanted to see her neighbors get back on their feet after such a tragedy, adding that she began offering food, water, and toiletries to those who would accept them.

“They are people like me and you,” she said.

The woman said that her Haitian neighbors were the best she has ever had while living in the capital.

The Family Islander said that during her seven years of living in the community she had experienced immigration officers entering the shantytown and arresting persons for the lack of documentation, but were later released after papers were presented to the department.

The woman called on Keith Bell, the Minister of Immigration, to extend a courtesy to those victims who were documented.

“Once they are documented, they deserve a place here,” she continued.

In response to the displacement of the Haitian victims, Duvalier suspected that the small community may be hesitant to seek assistance due to the social climate and disclosed that most victims were documented expatriates.

According to Duvalier, Social Services offers a relief program that aids residents who would have lost homes during a fire incident.

The program focuses on directing displaced persons to the necessary ministries that aim to help victims get back on their feet by assisting them with rent, food, and items that are essential.

The deputy director also noted that they retrieved some of the residents’ documents and advised the victims to check with the ministry to see whether their IDs were retrieved.

Additionally, she advised that the members of the shantytown ask the fire department for proof of residency to carry the form to the Department of Immigration where they could receive a copy of their work permits once approved.

A woman who lived in the Shantytown with her siblings said: “I lost plenty of things, clothes, shoes, everything is gone.”

Although she lost her home, the woman said she remained full of faith and was very hopeful.