Squatters at Rock Hall, St. Philip are at the mercy of Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s Government and have no legal right to the land they currently occupy, a well known attorney has warned.
Robert Bobby Clarke, who is also a social activist, was responding to reports that some squatters were opposed to moving off the land as well as suggestions that some residents may be entitled to remain after years of illegal occupation.
In addition, Clarke has contended that if the squatters, situated just a stone’s throw from the country’s airport are injured due to an aviation accident, Government could be held liable.
As such, the attorney has suggested squatters request a sitting with members of the Mottley administration to negotiate a “humanistic” solution.
In his opinion, a provision of the Tenantries Freehold Purchase Act, which entitles people occupying land for over seven years to purchase the land, would not obtain in the case of the Rock Hall squatters.
“Time [is not a factor] … don’t fight it in terms of land because you can’t win,” advised Clarke.
“They cannot do that against the Crown, because the Crown has overall ownership of the land even if they have been squatting for ten years, they cannot claim it. That is their major problem and the advice being given by some people is incorrect.”
According to Clarke, the courts would likely also consider the security threat posed by the squatters.
“Anytime an airplane overshoots the runway, it could end up in their houses. That piece of land is an essential piece of land and is no ordinary piece of land. Any plane overrunning the runway will end up in their houses and then the Government will have to pay for any injuries to them and will have to buy houses for them.”
Clarke, who has worked tirelessly representing citizens in the dispute surrounding the compulsory acquisition of land at Emmerton in The city, said he was on the side of the squatters.
“Both DLP and BLP Governments for years were not giving any kind of decent response [to housing problems], so they [squatters] pulled out money to improve their living standards, which is understandable and I expect Government to understand their problem and find a solution. But in law, they have no case,” said the activist.
As such, he praised Government’s $25,000 grant offer, to assist their relocation.
“The offer of $25,000 is just a humanistic gesture. So I think they should really have a non-aggressive view. Sit down with the PM and explain their personal problems, not their legal problems, because they are no legal solutions. There are only humanistic solutions to it,” he suggested.
“The houses will have to be rebuilt. Most of them are made of wood, but the ones that are wall cannot be reused. I am on their side and I understand that they need assistance, but they are in the wrong area and that in itself is crucial,” the attorney concluded.
Earlier this week, squatters told Barbados TODAY they settled there in a last ditch effort to accommodate their families. In addition, parliamentary representative for St. Philip South, Indar Weir, in whose constituency the squatters are situated, said many of them have housing applications languishing in Government departments.
Concern has also been raised about a constant flow of people who have started setting up houses smack in the middle of a former dump on the Rock Hall site.