Some have already attempted to set up tents in shantytowns in Abaco in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Director Captain Stephen Russell said yesterday.
On Sunday, the government issued an immediate ban on the construction of new buildings in shantytowns in Abaco, which were flattened by the storm two weeks ago. Russell said that while the government’s plans for the communities are not yet finalized, whatever is built there will be tied into sewage, electric and water systems.
“I got a call this morning from the administrator of North Abaco advising that a group of persons wants to set up some tents in the Sand Banks area, and I have advised that that is not to happen at this point in time, not at all,” Russell said at a NEMA press conference.
“So, that goes for The Mudd, Pigeon Peas, Sand Banks, there is no reconstruction in those areas at all. When we decide upon putting up temporary shelters, we would designate the areas where we want our temporary shelters to go for persons who are returning back to the area and persons who worked in the area.”
He added, “…We need to tie it into a sewage system, likewise an electrical supply and water. So, we have to control that before anything goes on in those areas.”
Russell said that once the debris is cleared from areas, they will be cordoned off until there are plans to rebuild.
“We are refining our plans now,” he said.
“We have to clear everything away first. Then we want to do a proper zoning of the areas.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis identified shantytowns as an issue that must be addressed to improve the country’s resilience to hurricanes.
“The shantytowns that we have that we know about, we know that those are in danger of being affected by the elements of the storm, so those are areas that we must aggressively pursue and correct,” he said at a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister.
“It is essential for individuals to know that they must live in proper accommodations.”
Many of Abaco’s former shantytown residents are now in shelters in New Providence. While the government has announced plans for temporary housing for those left homeless by Hurricane Dorian, some Haitian immigrants have expressed concern over what they can expect.
Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson warned that while deportations in affected areas have been temporarily suspended, undocumented migrants affected by the storm will not escape immigration operations forever.
“I’ve heard persons suggesting that there should be some asylum given,” he said.
“There is no asylum. Asylum suggests that you have some difficulty in your country of origin, and you’re seeking to move to another country to avoid the atrocity or the injustice that may be perpetrated to you in your country of origin. So, the whole premise of an asylum has no credence here in The Bahamas.
“We’re going to provide you with the health services, the food and shelter that the human being should be provided with, but trust me, as soon as we have resolved this issue, very soon, we’re going to do what’s necessary to enforce the immigration regulations, but in all of the other islands, we are still enforcing the immigration rules.”
Johnson added, “Most certainly we’re not going to go into shelters. Within those shelters, you will be receiving the necessary humane services that you deserve. So, say, for instance, someone should leave those shelters and go into the community, that’s not an affected area.”
Johnson also warned Bahamians against harboring undocumented migrants.
“What I want to say to Bahamians is that there is the offense of harboring, and they should be careful about that,” he said.