AN AERIAL view of some of the properties that have sprung up. Photo: Stephanie Hield
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A LOCAL human rights activist says he hopes the government will have a proper contingency plan in place that includes housing alternatives for occupants of a new shanty town in Abaco when it moves to demolish the newly built illegal structures.
Louby Georges told The Tribune yesterday that hundreds and possibly thousands of people could be displaced if the government does not find housing alternatives for residents in the Farm Road community that is targeted for government demolition.
His comments come after Works Minister Desmond Bannister along with other government officials toured some parts of the Farm Road shanty town over the weekend. Noting the situation will not be an “overnight fix”, Mr Bannister pledged to Abaconians that the government will take the necessary action to deal with unregulated developments on the island.
Aerial surveillance, released by Abaconions earlier this month, showed new construction taking place, with buildings being built more strategically and sturdier than what was seen in the irregular communities pre-Hurricane Dorian.
Mr Georges said while he understands the government’s need to take action, there must also be a structured plan in place to avoid people being left homeless.
“The rules are the rules, the law is the law and at the end of day, if we don’t have any rules or if we don’t have any laws then what type of society will we have,” he told this newspaper.
“So, in that case I totally understand the government’s position and I can’t knock the government’s position in that regards but on the flip side of things, when you take a look at the reality of Abaco… housing, as an essential element of the community, is not readily available in Abaco as we speak.”
He added: “So, while we need to reconstruct, repair and build back the island itself, I’m not talking about any particular part or community, the island needs to be rebuilt. We need the resources, we need human labour to be there to rebuild the island.
“Where are these people going to live? So, in a sense it’s like being caught between a rock and a hard place and if you go and the government decides to demolish all of these homes, then we’re back at square one so same way Hurricane Dorian displaced people, they’re now going to be displaced again so where do they go?”
Mr Georges said many of the residents living in those communities are in the country legally and urged Bahamians to be responsible in their commentary.
He said: “If you can go back to the 2018 task force report that the government did, the government’s own report, we saw that the overwhelming majority of the shanty town dwellers were actually legal residents of the Bahamas. So, it hurts me when I hear (media) reporting these ‘illegal migrant communities’ because.. that’s so dangerous and so unfortunate.”
Before Hurricane Dorian decimated them last year, shanty towns across Abaco had more than 1,000 homes and an estimated population size of 3,500, according to government reports.
However, two weeks after the storm hit the island, the government issued an immediate ban on the construction of any new buildings in the four major shanty towns on Abaco.
Despite the government ban, unregulated homes continued to spring up on the island.
Mr Georges said the government is to blame for allowing the situation to get out of hand.
He said: “You have the Abaco authorities or the government officials who allowed this to happen.
“Reports were coming out from there last year sometime that something was going here but you guys (officials) sat by and did nothing so if the government knew this was being built and allowed this to happen for so long then I would think the responsible thing to do is ensure that you have a proper plan in place,” the activist said.