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3,500 in Abaco shantytowns

A recent survey of shantytowns on Abaco revealed that 20 percent of their residents are undocumented.

Labour Minister Dion Foulkes, who heads the Shantytown Action Task Force, said, “Out of all of the residents, 80 percent of them have some type of legal status to be in The Bahamas [and] 20 percent of them are undocumented.”

Foulkes was unable to confirm how many of the shantytown residents are Bahamian.

He said the total breakdown of the legal status of residents will be made public when the report is released.

The report is before Cabinet, and Foulkes said he was unsure when the report will be made public.

The report found that there are 915 households in shantytowns throughout Abaco. Residents of 777 households were interviewed by the Shantytown Action Task Force.

“Out of those 777 households, there are 3,039 residents, and that is for all of Abaco,” Foulkes said.

“Our estimates, meaning the Shantytown Action Task Force estimates, is that for those where there are no responses, 138 households, we estimate — and this is only an estimate — that they compromise of about 500 residents; so the total amount of residents in all six shantytowns in Abaco equate to 3,500, compared to the figure in Nassau, which is 1,410.”

There are six shantytowns on the island, including: The Mudd, Pigeon Peas, Elbow Cay shantytown, Sandbank, The Farm Road and L & H.

“The two main shantytowns in South Abaco [are] The Mudd and the Peas,” Foulkes said.

“The report indicates that they represent 70 percent of the total amount of households interviewed, and that equates to 2,600 residents.”

He also said that 332 individuals under the age of 18 lived in the shantytowns.

 Deadline

The government set a deadline of July 31, 2019 for residents of the Abaco shantytowns to evacuate.

An injunction was filed in August, by the lawyers of New Providence shantytown residents, preventing the demolition of shantytowns on New Providence after they were given until August 10 to evacuate their homes.

The lawyers for the residents said they might have to seek an injunction to block the government’s actions with respect to shantytowns on Family Islands.

Yesterday, when asked whether there were any housing solutions for shantytown residents, Foulkes said, “We have several committees that are meeting currently.”

Foulkes said the injunction has prohibited the taskforce “from following our action plan”.

“… But all of the things that we can do, that do not relate directly to the shantytowns, we are doing. And one of them is a subcommittee that is considering alternative housing for the residents of the shantytowns in Abaco,” he said.

“… I do not want to get into any detail about that. We’re having discussions as to some of the options.”

Foulkes also said the report was the first conducted on the island since the recent fires.

In January, there was a fire in The Mudd which lasted more than three hours and left approximately 150 people homeless.

Another fire raged through the shantytown in March.

This fire destroyed 32 structures and left 95 people homeless.

“The Ministry of Health did a report in 2013, and at that time there were 1,024 households, so as you can see there is a decrease of about 100 structures, and we think that is due to the two fires that occurred since 2013,” Foulkes said.

 

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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