Thursday, December 30, 2010

Brensil Rolle: ...the government will crackdown on shantytowns, which have sprung up in New Providence over the years

Squatters face govt action
Guardian Senior Reporter

Housing official vows crackdown following fire

While describing a fire that destroyed more than 100 houses in a Haitian village on Sunday as tragic, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Housing Brensil Rolle said yesterday the government will crackdown on shantytowns, which have sprung up in New Providence over the years.

Rolle said that on one piece of government property in the Carmichael Road area, there are more than 1,000 squatters, including at least 250 Bahamians.

That land is located near the Haitian village destroyed in the weekend blaze.

Rolle noted that these communities pose health and safety risks to neighboring communities.

He said Bahamians have been instrumental in the proliferation of these shantytowns.

“We are very fortunate that lives were not lost and major injury did not occur. But a greater problem is whether or not communities like this should exist in pockets of New Providence at this stage, and perhaps that is why the government is engaged in the new sub-division law, which will outline how communities are to be developed,” Rolle told The Nassau Guardian.

“It cannot be acceptable in The Bahamas for communities to continue to exist in this fashion.

“I am not commenting on whether the community is a community of illegals or not. It is just that we cannot have in The Bahamas in 2010 communities of this nature.”

Rolle pointed to the unsanitary and unhealthy conditions the squatters impacted by the recent fire were living under with no running water and electricity.

The Nassau Guardian understands that more than 200 Haitians were living in the Alan Drive community.

The blaze took 25 fire fighters six hours to extinguish. Many of the residents were left with only the clothes on their backs.

The Nassau Guardian also understands that some of the residents now sleep in derelict vehicles, while others have been lucky enough to find lodging with family members.

Rolle said he has already written and spoken with some of his colleagues to see how best to move forward in dealing with this vexing problem.

“I suspect what is going to take place is that the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Health and other relevant government agencies will go in and cause some investigations to take place to see what caused the fire and what happened and thereafter the government will make some decisions on what will take place on the land,” he said.

Rolle claimed that there are three flourishing Haitian shantytowns in the area.

Regarding the government land where more than 1,000 squatters reside, he said, “We tried to the best of our ability to make contact with everyone in the village. We identified the Bahamians and residents in the village who have applied for residency so a decision can be made on their applications so that when the Ministry of Housing moves in to redesign the property they could be considered.”

He said there are some squatters who can afford to pay rent and will most likely have to do so when the time comes.

“We just want to make sure in our communities standards are maintained, and the government building code is not violated,” Rolle said.

One Bahamian resident who lives near the shantytown that burnt down claimed that she has had to put up with loud music and feared illegal activity was taking place.

She said despite the great loss that the squatters have had to endure they should not be allowed to rebuild.