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UN officials urge govt to halt demolition plans

THE FARM Road area - pictured from the air last year.

THE FARM Road area - pictured from the air last year.

By FARRAH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

fjohnson@tribunemedia.net

UNITED Nations human rights experts on Friday urged the government to halt plans to demolish 600 homes in two shanty towns in Abaco known as The Farm and Farm Road.

In a joint sting operation last month, residents of the unregulated communities received notices from the government advising that action was to be taken in instances where people inhabited structures in violation of the Building Regulations Act. At the time, occupants residing in shanty town structures in the area were told demolition was imminent.

Later in April, the Ministry of Works spearheaded the demolition of 45 “incomplete and unoccupied structures” in The Farm shanty town in Abaco.

In a statement, UN officials asserted the forced evictions constituted a “serious violation of the human right to adequate housing and would result in arbitrary internal displacement”.

“A community of Haitian descendants and migrants numbering up to 2,000 people, including many women and children, are at serious risk of becoming homeless as a result of the clearance expected to take place on May 7,” the statement read.

“...To make things worse, this is scheduled to occur during the COVID-19 pandemic, threatening to expose an already vulnerable minority to all kinds of risks for their health and safety.”

The experts noted the majority of the people occupying the unregulated communities in Abaco had “nowhere else to go” which meant they were at “serious risk” of falling into homelessness and extreme poverty if their homes were destroyed.

They said while it was “important to move away from informal settlements” that lacked safety and infrastructure, “vulnerable minorities should not be left behind in the government’s efforts to rebuild more resilient communities”.

“In early September 2019, Hurricane Dorian ravaged several parts of the Bahamas islands, completely destroying several informal settlements on Abaco, where many Haitian migrants and Bahamians of Haitian origin used to live. After several months of living in evacuation shelters, many of the survivors had to completely rebuild their homes – it is these that the authorities intend to destroy,” the UN experts continued.

“In addition to the risk of becoming homeless, some migrants among the residents of the two informal settlements fear that they may be detained and deported. In recent years, there have been reports of undocumented migrants experiencing ill-treatment in detention, before being deported. Families have also been separated as a result. We urge the government of the Bahamas to immediately cease further evictions and housing demolitions. Furthermore we call on the government to review its migration policy, which includes the widespread use of detention and expulsion of migrants.”

The UN officials also referred to the current judicial review before the Supreme Court and its order to halt evictions in shanty towns in New Providence.

“We urge the Bahamas to follow due legal process and respect existing judicial orders. This includes not only waiting for the outcome of the Supreme Court full review of the government’s policy to demolish informal settlements, but also to ensure full adherence to international human rights standards governing relocations, evictions, and internal displacement.

“People living in informal settlements need to be consulted, receive security of tenure, and either be allowed to remain where they currently live – or if they need to be relocated for safety reasons – be properly rehoused and provided with access to water, sanitation, electricity and access to other essential public services.

“The UN human rights experts urged the government of the Bahamas, which currently holds the vice presidency at the Human Rights Council, to ensure that its internal policies are implemented in full compliance with international human rights standards.”

The experts include Balakrishnan Rajagopal, special rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, Michael Fakhri, special rapporteur on the right to food, and Tlaleng Mofokeng, special rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health among others.

Their urgent appeal to the government gives the country six months to respond according to the procedures it lists.

Last month, Works Minister Desmond Bannister told a ZNS reporter that the structures destroyed in April were under construction and that officials ensured that buildings affected by a court order were not touched.

He warned that without government action, thousands of people would soon flock to the area, jeopardising the health of “every single person on this island.”

He said the way the structures were being built could cost people their lives and create serious health challenges.

He said the structures lacked a foundation to ensure stability.

Last Thursday marked 28 days since occupants of shanty town structures in The Farm were told demolition was imminent. On Tuesday, Mr Bannister said officials are ready to “do what they have to do”.

“Thursday makes 28 days,” he said on Tuesday. “We couldn’t go into occupied structures until 28 days had passed and so we are going into the third phase beginning this week.

“Our people are mobilised and ready to do what they have to do.”

Comments

TalRussell 1 year, 1 month ago

Would've been impossible to have cleared the lands construct hundreds of houses on Shantytown properties - and supply hundreds of houses, and commercial buildings, with water, lights, telephone, and septic services unless some those were corrupted at senior and junior levels local and Nassau-based officials, got paid/rewarded to turn away blind eyes?
Doesn't it beg asks,
why such a serious and openly done corrupted matter, hadn't long ago been turned over to the Royal Constabulary?
Not even NIB become suspicious of so many with similar addresses, You mean not even the constabulary, patrolled the area. You mean to say that not even the Fire Inspectors and the ministry of works permits department - never knew hundreds of illegally constructed houses were built and becoming occupied, yes?**

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SP 1 year, 1 month ago

UNITED Nations human rights experts can go to hell. They don't have to deal with the multitude of negative impacts shantytowns have on our country, people, and the environment!

The government needs to totally ignore these people and do what's best for the Bahamas and Bahamians.

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ohdrap4 1 year, 1 month ago

They should have employed them to build the domes and the container homes in Sweetings Cay. These are much more efficient builders.

That way the domes would have been completed and they would have earned money to build proper homes.

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 1 month ago

Conduct a proper survey and for those undocumented get the UN countries to accept a share of the migrants for repopulation exercises. At the same time stop the trafficking. Someone high up in govt has to be profiting off of this. It makes no sense that a problem this large goes undetected and proliferates in such a small country. We're gonna be headed for civil war if they dont get a handle on this. and that is not far fetched

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lovingbahamas 1 year, 1 month ago

Where were the police while all this building was going on? Well, supposedly, the police didn’t have any place to stay in Abaco after Dorian. And, the few officers that were there rarely left their lodgings. Maybe the government should have hired The Farm workers to build lodging for them. Because, even though the government couldn’t figure out a way to “lodge” the police, the people at the farm managed to build hundreds of homes, some with impact windows, porches, generators and AC units. The looting has been relentless in Abaco. I pray for everyone here in the Bahamas that they don’t get a hurricane because the government can’t even supply basic necessities like water and electricity. They can’t even supply police!

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tribanon 1 year, 1 month ago

These so called UN "experts" are never anywhere to be found when it comes to speaking out against the invasion of our country by overwhelming numbers of illegal immigrants. It's all too obvious they don't care an iota about the Bahamian people. If they did, they would be providing our government with meaningful economic and diplomatic assistance aimed at stopping the invasion of our country by illegal Haitian nationals and repatriating them back to Haiti. But instead these bumbling useless over-paid UN bureacrats have decided to side with the illegal invaders of our country who have absolutely no respect whatsoever for our laws.

Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Michael Fakhri, Tlaleng Mofokeng and others like them at the UN should all be told by our government to go fly a kite and stop their mischievous unwarranted meddling in our country's affairs. In fact, all of these worthless UN bureacrats should be told in no uncertain terms by the Minnis-led FNM administration to immediately cease and desist from their wrongful efforts to aid and abet the breaking of our country's laws by foreign nationals, many of whom no doubt illegally entered our country in the first place.

The last thing the Bahamian people want to see is Hubert Minnis, Elsworth Johnson, Frankie Campbell and Darren Henfield kowtowing to these UN bureacrats who clearly stand opposed to the interests of The Bahamas and the Bahamian people.

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Emilio26 1 year, 1 month ago

Tribanon something tells me that Fred Smith QC probably went to the UN with lies by telling them how bahamians are mistreating haitians.

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mandela 1 year, 1 month ago

The UN should explain their disastrous presence in Haiti and why they pulled out. Mind your own business you don't live here and you don't care, the only thing these organizations care about is their own agenda, and if one of their agendas aligns with someone else's then lucky them.

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GodSpeed 1 year, 1 month ago

Tell the UN to take their precious illegals and carry them to Europe or New York, whichever they want. In fact, why don't they take in the entire population of Haiti one time? Only about 11 million of them or so, spread them in Europe and America and have fun with that.

Don't tell us what to do if you're not paying our bills, we are a small sovereign nation of not even 0.5 million. Your satanic one world government hasn't been quite set up just yet so don't get ahead of yourselves.

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licks2 1 year, 1 month ago

How do you expect them to take those folks to their country. . .THEY HAVE LAWS. . .DON'T YOU KNOW THAT!! RELAX THOUGH. . .WE HAVE THE CONVENTIONS WE SIGNED WITH THE UN. . .THOSE CONVENTIONS PROTECT US!! Not every time yinna hear some person "cry" Human Rights yinna must start shaking in yinna boots them!!

We are safe if our politicians don't go and play the fool!! No agency in the whole of the UN will sanction us for demolitions of any shanty build "AFTER" the court sanction when they were told not to build. . .THAT'S WHY SMITH AND GEORGE TRYING TO "BLUFF" YINNA INTO THINKING THAT THE UN PLACED SANCTIONS ON OUR ACTIONS. . .THEY CANNOT AND STILL ASK ANY MEMBER NATION TO HOLD TO ANY CONVENTION. . .WHAT GOOD ARE ANY CONVENTION IF THEY THEMSELVES WILL NOT STAND FOR THE POLICIES THEY WROTE!!

WHAT MR SMITH AND THOSE ARE NOT "SEEING". . .IF THEY GO TO THE UN AND THEY OFFICIALLY SANCTIONS THE BAHAMAS FOR PROTECTING HER PEOPLE AND NATION. . .THEN HAITI ALSO BECOMES FAIR GAME FOR EVERYBODY TO OVER RUN HER!!! NO NATION WILL BE SAFE FROM ANY OTHER NATION!!

THE ONLY THING WE NEED TO WORRY ABOUT RIGHT NOW IS OUR IGNORANT OFFICIALS. . .IF THEY HAVE NOT READ THOSE CONVENTIONS. . .THEY CAN BECOME SCARD WHEN THEY HEAR THE TERM. . .UN!!

I HOPED THAT MR. JOHNSON HAD KEPT HIS BIG MOUTH SHUT. . .HE DID NOT NEED TO SAY A DANG THING. . .WHY HE BOTHERED TO YAP. . .I DON'T KNOW!!

WE DON'T HAVE TO LISTEN TO ANYTHING THOSE ROGUES SAY. . .AFTER ALL, WE SIGNED CONVENTIONS WITH THE UN!!!

LET THEM TALK AS MUCH AS THEY LIKE. . .IF WE ARE SO IN VIOLATION OF UN ACCORDS. . .TAKE US TO THE WORLD COURT THEN!!! "Chile" please!!!

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jamesg30 1 year, 1 month ago

Our problem here is not unique to the Bahamas. Illegal immigration, of usually very desperate people, and how a country goes about dealing with this issue is quite revealing. Tearing peoples homes down says a lot about us, especially for such a Christian, Jesus loving country. Supposedly.

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 1 month ago

Yes we are experiencing a common world problem. What happens to be unique about this is, we are a small developing nation literally being invaded by a population much larger than our own. and we happen to be on the verge of collapse. History has shown that when we dont deal with these problem they get bigger. They never go away and they never get better. The illegal shanty towns cannot be allowed to remain. The only solution is for the UN to allow the migrants to enter their countries where the social network is set up to handle large migrating populations. Take out all of the bias, objectively we simply cannot sustain this

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bogart 1 year, 1 month ago

The conversation with the UN officials and the Bahamas should begin with a memorial service in the public Graveyard where there was the mass burial of the 55 unindentified persons died in the Hurricane and with great dignity buried by the Bahamas govt. The UN officials should be seated in the front seats and the service include recounts of Govt and brave persons with assistance of cadaver trained dogs recovering bodies in various of decomposition, trapped from under the acres of shantytown timbered rubble flattened like a pancake.

Added to retelling at the Memorial Service in cemetary by local Pastors of hurricane destroyed shanty town occupants survivors, dere must also be in telling of the sad demise of 55 unindentified persons, must also include the some 36 persons and more unknown numbers of human souls who seems to have just swept away into sea and bodies still remain missing. May the souls who have passed away in the Hurricane shantytown destruction rest in peace.

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birdiestrachan 1 year, 1 month ago

They call us THIRD WORLD so we do not count that much,

It is time for the Bahamas to move from outdoor toilets and pumps. not add to these failures with shantytowns.

Whoever holds their permits should provide them with housing.

but there will be no shanty towns on the Easter road or Lyford cay or where the drama king lives. so why is it all right for certain areas??

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licks2 1 year, 1 month ago

Relax people. . .that report is not an UNHRC sanctioned report!! That report was done by renegades. . .the UN do not speak through individuals. . . it speaks through Agencies!!

For example, which UN convention allows any member state to be "over run" by a foreign group while ignoring the laws of that member country!!

Further more, no member country agreed nor is ever asked to provide more of its economic resources to migrants over and above it can provide to its indigenous population!!

This is bully tactic by persons who are desperate and are trying to cause the government to stop what it will have to do!! Just think. . .would the UN ask the government to abide by the law of this land while letting the Haitians do as they wish? That goes against the letter and spirit of all UN conventions!!

This report is a concoction by elements in our country and Asians affiliated with the UN!! I read the report but could not find any UN sanctioned body submitting that report!!

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tribanon 1 year, 1 month ago

So why hasn't the UN fired the three renegades, namely Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Michael Fakhri, Tlaleng Mofokeng? You really need to stop defending the UN.

For decades now the UN has been nothing more than an oppressor rather than a helper of smaller nations. And today's UN has become a tool of the Communist Chinese Party which also heavily engages in the bullying of more vulnerable smaller nations with impunity.

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