Deadline 'gives shanty town residents time to move'

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

TRANSPORT and Local Government Minister Frankie Campbell said the July 31, 2018, deadline for the eviction of shanty town residents gives ample time for those in the community to find alternative housing.

Noting the substandard conditions in these communities, Mr Campbell, whose mother is Haitian, praised the work of the government. He said this was needed to eradicate a “parallel” society, which existed for far too long.

“I am pleased that the process the government initiated is a collaborative one,” the Southern Shores MP told The Tribune.

“It was not one done in isolation. Persons who are in the community were involved. The Haitian leaders were involved, humanitarians, men and women of the cloth were involved and it seems as if due and timely notice has been given.

“So I am satisfied that they ought not to have been living in those conditions in the first place so I am satisfied that there is a move to take us away from a situation where it appeared that we had two parallel societies existing in The Bahamas.

“I am pleased that we are moving towards proper integration. That is all part and parcel of the overall immigration effort and so I am satisfied that we are going to move and we are going to be successful this time around.”

This comes as Rights Bahamas said it now has evidence to take “constitutional action” against the government over the deadline mandating the eviction of shantytown residents, arguing the decision was discriminatory.

Stephanie St Fleur, president of the activist group, branded the move “ethnic cleansing” saying it contravened certain articles of the Bahamas Constitution.

On Sunday, Ms St Fleur said she was surprised by the news of a deadline; however, Haitian Pastors League President Dr Jean Paul Charles told The Tribune yesterday he had no issues with the deadline because in his view it gives sufficient time for shanty town dwellers to find alternative housing.

He said he had known of the government’s date to vacate since February.

The deadline was first made public in The Tribune’s report of an interview with Labour Minister Dion Foulkes, chairman of the government-appointed shanty town committee.

Dr Charles said the only challenge was some families may find it difficult to financially afford what is required to rent accommodations. This, he said, was raised with government officials. But the Minnis administration has said they are not willing to assist in this regard, Dr Charles said.

Activist Louby Georges took exception to this, saying he doubted the league asked the right questions of the government or effectively communicated the content of meetings with the government to the wider Haitian community, especially those living in the shantytowns.

He said the pastors seem to be more “yes men” than a body looking after the well being of the minority group. Mr Georges told The Tribune he doubted the wider Haitian community knew of the deadline, which is a little more than two months away.

Labour Minister Dion Foulkes announced the government’s planned timeline and further revealed two shanty towns - one in New Providence off Hamster Road, Faith Avenue and another just outside of George Town Exuma – were recently torn down.