The “majority” of the squatters at Rock Hall, St. Philip have applications for housing solutions languishing in Government departments across the country and in many cases had exhausted all reasonable options.
This is the contention of St. Philip South Member of Parliament and Minister of Agriculture, Indar Weir in whose constituency the area sits, as he responded to criticism of Government’s pledge to assist members of the illegal community.
So earnest is the Mia Mottley administration’s commitment to poverty eradication, Weir suggests Government will be looking to accommodate other squatters where possible.
“We have to be very caring and very humane in all of this and I am saying those people have exhausted all options now… We are not going to join any conversation that says we should be unkind to these people. We have to find a solution. We find solutions for many other things in this country and I see nothing wrong with finding a solution for people who work for $600 a month,” Weir declared on Starcom Network’s call-in programme, Down to Brass Tacks.
Pointing to statistics from social workers, he said: “As much as people talk, we still have to make sense and be responsible and I am telling you …we have people there who will never be able to acquire a house or land and those are the people who resort to squatting… and they’re not doing it out of ill-will or being sinister. They’re doing it because they have no choice and nowhere to turn.”
The agriculture minister went on to rubbish suggestions in the media that the majority of squatters are non-nationals and argued that based on his own research, that most Barbadian squatters had existing housing applications, which have not been dealt with.
“We are making sure we identify the people living below the poverty line and many of their names will show up at the Welfare [Department], at Rural Development Commission, Urban Development Commission and National Housing Corporation. Many of them there [at Rock Hall] moved from St Lucy, St Peter, Christ Church, St Michael, various parts of St Philip, St John and other parts of Barbados because they had family disputes, were put out of the house and can’t find anywhere and resorted to squatting.
“The non-nationals who are there, are people who are within a different income group or are living with a husband or wife and they are not being given any grant of any sort,” he said.
When questioned about what should be done with other squatters in Barbados, Weir said: “You have to look at the type of property they’re on. Is it someone else’s private property? Can it be compulsorily acquired? Is it Government land? Can it be used to help convert those people into regularized living conditions? If it can be, that is the solution,” he said.
“A lot of that is pride and ignorance. Let us deal with the hardcore issues. I am not going to allow a person’s pride to blur a discussion that seeks to regularize the living conditions of people who themselves know that they are not comfortable with what they’re doing.”
The St Philip South representative also explained that the entire area known as Rock Hall does not rest on the landfill. Instead, he suggested the more recently inhabited sections are sitting on the dump.
“What I do know with a high degree of certainty is that the information being spewed currently is incorrect and there is a majority of Barbadians over there and Rock Hall is not all dump. That is where we really have to do the preparation so that we can have a clear understanding of what is taking place, because there are people living in Rock Hall that are not living on any dump and are not squatting,” said Weir.