Prime Minister Philip Davis and other senior government officials met with Haitian pastors on Tuesday night to hear their concerns on the administration’s plan to demolish shantytowns in the country.
Davis said the pastors committed to helping the government but stressed that the process should be done humanely.
“They have committed to go into these communities to try and talk with them and let them know that they should try to find alternative housing,” the prime minister said.
According to a statement from the government, more than 200 eviction notices were issued to shantytown residents on Abaco.
Davis continued, “It was really an informative session and convocation. The Haitian pastors have committed to do their part to assist in dealing with the challenges we are having. They acknowledge it.
“All of them are Bahamians except one or two who are permanent residents of The Bahamas and they see The Bahamas as their home and they want to protect their home.”
Last month, Davis put residents living in shantytowns across The Bahamas on notice that they will be required to find alternative housing and said his administration intends to hold accountable the “network of people” who make these shantytowns possible, though he gave no timeline on when the action will happen.
Minister of Labour and Immigration Keith Bell, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell and Minister of Social Services Obie Wilchcombe also attended the meeting, as well as members of the Department of Immigration.
Bell said the thrust of the meeting was to “get their assistance and hear their recommendations as to some of the challenges we are having and how we can hear from them in terms of recommendations to help us fix the problem”. The announcement came after a Supreme Court judge lifted an injunction that prevented the demolition of shantytowns in The Bahamas.
In a statement on his Facebook page yesterday, the prime minister said, “The beleaguered people of Haiti desperately need respite from the political, economic, and security crises which have engulfed the country. We will continue to support all stakeholders to craft a Haitian-led solution.”
Haiti is engulfed in crisis.
Haiti has been plagued with political instability for many years. Those issues were made worse by the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in 2021.
A recent UN report reveals nearly one in 10 households in Haiti said they planned to leave the country in search of better living conditions.
According to the report, an estimated 5.2 million Haitians will need humanitarian assistance in 2023.
“Armed gangs control more and more territories, particularly in the capital, Port-au-Prince, committing abuses against the population and triggering internal displacements,” the report states.
It continues, “These conditions have caused the closure of many health and educational establishments, depriving thousands of people of care and some four million children of their right to education. Food insecurity in the country has risen extremely worryingly.
“Nearly half of the population is food insecure and, for the first time in Haiti’s history, at least 19,000 people are facing catastrophic levels.
“Desperation is pushing more and more people to leave the country, while forced repatriations continue by land, air or sea.”
Authorities in The Bahamas have said that more and more Haitians, seeking a better way of life, have been caught in Bahamian waters.