Shanty town notices being handed out recently. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
AS he defended the government's plan to fully eradicate shanty towns in the country, Labour Minister Dion Foulkes said despite a new deadline for evictions in New Providence he is confident residents living in unregulated communities will experience a "seamless transition" to standard residential areas come August 10.
Earlier this month, former Progressive Liberal Party Immigration Minister Loftus Roker branded the government's previous July 31 Nassau deadline for evictions as "nonsense".
Mr Roker also said he had no faith the government will find any success in this deadline, telling The Tribune it was hard to think otherwise when it appeared the December 31, 2017 deadline for all illegal immigrants to leave the country was not honoured.
In response, Mr Foulkes, who is chairman of the Shanty Town Action Task Force, said the remarks were "unfounded" and insisted the government's plan was laid on the table from the outset of this undertaking.
This comes as the task force continued work on Saturday with tours of three shantytowns in southwestern New Providence.
The task force also hopes to complete surveying residents of shantytowns in Abaco by next week, Mr Foulkes said. The deadline for those living in unregulated communities on that island remains July 31, 2019.
"We have a very comprehensive programme," Mr Foulkes said yesterday. "We have thought about every possible scenario both with respect to the communities involved and the surrounding communities."
He said if critics were listening to the various things said, and looked at the various things done by the government, they would know the Minnis administration considered every possible scenario involving the residents of these communities.
Mr Foulkes continued: "At the very beginning of this exercise I met privately with Rights Bahamas along with other senior officers from my ministry, two in particular that represented their organisation, and laid out my complete plan in terms of what we planned to do over several months.
Additionally, one of the other officers attended another meeting that we held along with the Haitian leadership council that we have been working closely with.
"Yesterday (Saturday) I met with the Haitian Bahamian Pastors League, the United Bahamian Haitian Association and the Organisation to Assist and Teach Haitians along with representatives of the Haitian Embassy and we toured three communities and I must say that I am very pleased with the cooperation that the task force is getting from the leadership of the Bahamian Haitian community here in New Providence. It went extremely well and I am anticipating that come August the 10th we will have a seamless transition from persons residing in unregulated communities to residing in regulated communities."
Last week, Mr Foulkes confirmed the government delayed its July 31 deadline to protect the government from the possibility of the process being hindered by legal action.
"The first notice we had to give, which required a 14-day leave period," he said at the time.
"The attorney general gave us the advice on this, just in case it goes to court, we want to make sure that we cover all legal grounds and there is no possibility that what we are doing being stopped."
In late June, members of the Shanty Town Action Task Force travelled to the 11 shanty town communities in New Providence, serving notices to residents which required them to provide the government with legal documents for the land they now occupy.
They had two weeks to respond with proof. Last week officials said of the 14 properties which provided legitimate construction permits to authorities in recent weeks, none was ever granted an occupancy certificate.