Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister said people with work permits – not illegal residents – are largely the occupants of a shanty town in North Andros targeted for government demolition.
The government is expected to take legal action against residents that have not vacated the area that has been built on land intended for agricultural use.
Mr Bannister told reporters before a Cabinet meeting yesterday that he visited North Andros last week and encountered about 40 to 50 illegally constructed homes.
“Some of these homes are actually on people’s farms and so when you go where these houses are, right next to it you see the cultivation of the people who have their work permits. So, while we would like to think there are simple solutions to this, these are problems that have been in the making for many, many decades,” he said, adding that three sites were visited.
“There were maybe 40, 50 homes and most of them have been there for a very long time, many, many, many years.”
“Most of those people have been in The Bahamas for many years so it is not a simple solution of a lot of illegal immigrants. It’s an issue of people getting permits, of being farm workers and their employers not being required to account for where they live.”
He added: “It’s a very complex socio-economic situation in Andros and these are issues that will have to be addressed by a number of government agencies. What you have is a fairly medium sized group of non-Bahamians, many of whom are on work permits. They are working in communities, but they don’t live in those communities and people have been getting work permits and leaving them to fend for themselves. There’s also been some illegals, but not as many.
“There has to be comprehensive solutions based on giving people work permits. And if someone gets a work permit over the years governments have not been concerned about them finding homes for the people who work for them. So, you have farmers in Andros and they have all these people working for them, many of them, but they apply for work permits and there is no holding them accountable for where these people live. It’s a very complex socio-economic challenge. I’m making some suggestions to Cabinet and we’ll see how we work through those solutions.”
Agriculture, Marine Resources and Fisheries Minister Michael Pintard has said the number of people living in the informal communities has dwindled since the beginning of the year but the government is determined to remove the illegal structures.
A notice for occupants to vacate the land expired on March 5, 2020, Mr Pintard said.