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Bahamas PM warns against reconstructing shanty towns

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

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NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis says his administration will not allow any foreigner “to live in any bush” as he insisted that his administration would enforce the migration policies of The Bahamas.

“We are not allowing individuals who just received work permits to just go and set up shanty towns or whatever. It's inhumane and therefore you must show evidence or at least assure us that individuals will be living in comfortable environments,” Minnis said.

Last year, the Government said it would demolish shanty towns throughout the country, a move that was seen as moving against Haitian nationals who had been establishing such towns in the country.

But Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson in August last year handed down an injunction blocking the demolition of shanty-town structures, a number of which were subsequently destroyed by the passage of Hurricane Dorian when it swept through the archipelago in September this year.

Following the passage of the category 5 storm, the Government issued an immediate six-month ban on the construction of new buildings in those shanty towns. Prime Minister Minnis last month announced that his administration intended to acquire shantytown property on Abaco through compulsory acquisition.

Human rights advocate, Fred Smith, who represents shanty town residents, noted that “The injunction covers all shanty town land in New Providence as well as such land on Abaco occupied by specific applicants who are residents of shanty towns in Abaco.

“We stress that recent events do not change the terms of the injunction, which remains in full force and effect unless and until varied by the court,” the Queen's Counsel wrote in a letter to the Office of the Attorney General.

Attorney General Carl Bethel, in responding, said Government had not taken any action “contrary” to the injunction.

Meanwhile, a group of protesters on Saturday demanded that the Government repatriate all Haitians residing in shelters following the hurricane.

“There's all kind of flights leaving to go to Haiti. There are all kind of boats. For the most part, the job is this: we can repatriate,” said Adrian Francis who heads the advocacy group, Operation Sovereign Bahamas.

Francis also called on the Government to provide the public with its plan for the future of non-Bahamian storm victims in shelters, especially those in the gymnasium.

Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson told the Nassau Guardian newspaper that while the Government would not hinder the organisation's right to free expression, there are already regulations in place which identify that only fit and proper persons, who are in the best interests of peace and good [governance] of The Bahamas, should be in The Bahamas.

“Once persons are justifiably here in The Bahamas, they are here and we have to protect the dignity of those persons – whether they are documented or undocumented,” he told the newspaper.

Since October 19, more than 200 Haitians have been deported according to Giuseppe Loprete, chief of the International Organisation for Migration's mission in Haiti.

Several human rights groups have accused the Government of targeting Haitians with its policies.


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