PRIME Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
PRIME Minister Philip “Brave” Davis said his administration is looking at how best to deal with the shanty towns in Abaco that are not covered by an existing court injunction, adding demolition was among the options that can be taken.
However, the prime minister was noncommittal regarding whether the country has an immigration crisis saying: “Will I call it a crisis or not? I don’t think we’re there yet, but there are challenges in that area.”
Yesterday, as Mr Davis left the House of Assembly, he was asked about the issue.
He said it was a concern for the government and pointed to dysfunction and challenges emanating from other parts of the world, causing an influx of irregular migration.
“The world is contending with it, we have to contend with it,” Mr Davis also said.
“And yes, we have to find a balance to how we deal with it without impacting the lives of our own citizens.”
Asked if the Davis administration would consider demolishing the shanty town structures that aren’t covered by the injunction, he said: “We are going to look at how best to deal with these things in a humane way and if that’s one of the routes, that’s an option that’s out there.”
The injunction was granted by Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson in 2018. It banned demolition in New Providence and parts of Abaco.
However, it has been more than one year since the justice adjourned a judicial review into whether demolition of the unregulated communities is unconstitutional.
Earlier this month, Immigration Minister Keith Bell said there would be an increased number of immigration officers deployed to Abaco due to the recent expansion of several shanty towns there, with one unregulated community mushrooming to 200 acres since 2019.
A recent operation on Abaco resulted in 52 arrests and exposed the scope of the worsening shanty town problem.
The Department of immigration launched Operation Expedition from October 7 to 10, where immigration officers as well as the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force went to the island to explore, detain, and eventually repatriate any irregular migrants found.
The expedition found that one shanty town in particular - The Farm - grew from 50 acres to about 200 acres since Hurricane Dorian.
Other shanty towns, including a large area in Marsh Harbour, have expanded as well.
Abaco residents who have repeatedly voiced frustrations about the growing shanty towns on the island last week told The Tribune they want the government to “put their money where their mouth is” when it comes to dealing with the unregulated communities.
The residents were responding to recent comments made by Works and Utilities Minister Alfred Sears who said it was time for “considered action” to address the expansion of shanty towns.
He also told reporters that the government hoped to host a press conference soon to announce their plans to address the illegal developments.
However, according to Abaco residents, it’s something that they have heard before and still nothing has been done to date to resolve the problem.