A retired top aviation official has warned that the squatters settlement at Rock Hall is a significant security risk for the neighbouring Grantley Adams International Airport.
A day after ministers decided to relocate the residents, former Director of Civil Aviation Mitchinson Beckles has urged that the area should be cleared sooner rather than later, declaring “it is a prohibited area and people are not suppose to live there”.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Mia Mottley said that unauthorized occupation of land was over a disused landfill and that in the best interest of the residents, Government had taken a decision to relocate the community for public health reasons.
Speaking on Voice of Barbados’ Down to Brass Tacks today, Beckles made it clear that more than a dump and the resulting health concerns, Rock Hall is a violation of international aviation standards and there could be consequences.
“The airport must fall into international standards in terms of its development and right now we are looking to develop and those houses are in the clear area and they cannot remain there.
“You cannot clear the whole Thyme Bottom area and all of those houses that were down there and now come and develop one to other end of the runway.”
He explained that the houses were too close to the airport’s operations and they would have to move because they were out of line with international aviation standards.
He said: “Now what would happen is that the international civil aviation organization, one of its field officers would come down and they are going to carry out a survey, an audit on Barbados, and they would show Barbados as having a deficiency in terms of those houses.”
He explained that while the International Civil Aviation Organisation was unlikely to explain the deficiencies, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) could opt to take its own action.
Beckles noted that when IATA examined the deficiencies they could “determine that the particular airport is unsafe” and could raised their concerns with carriers like Air Canada, British Airways and American Airlines which also conduct extensive investigations to ensure Barbados has the necessary infrastructure to guarantee the safety of aircraft and passengers.
When pressed about why Barbados has so far seemingly escaped sanctions by either international body, the former Civil Aviation Director explained that the island had given commitments that it had been working to address the problem.
Beckles said: “There was a time that the indication was that there a site identified in Oldbury, St Philip to relocate these persons.
“The problem is that we drag our foot on things.”
On Thursday, Prime Minister Mottley said: “This matter was brought to our attention about five or six weeks ago by the Minister of Housing, and there were two main concerns; not just the flight path but the fact that the majority of people have built their houses on a dump, and I don’t need to tell you the public health implications for people living on a dump.”
The aviation expert was also at pains to point out that the RockHall Development was a clear security risk
“These things create a security problem. That is the aircraft is too close to civilization at their most critical stages of flight. In terrorism, there is something call a MANPADS- It is a Man-portable Air-Defense system. Now that is what we call it in aviation and aviation security. You may know it as a person carrying a rocket propelled grenade on their back with something like a big rifle. And these people can hit an aircraft at these low altitudes and knock them out of the skies.
“So that is why these establishments, or developments are not to be that close to the operation of aircraft.
He called on the Government to take firm control of development.