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Lewis: Foreign NGOs erecting unsafe tent communities on Abaco

Jasper Ward The Nassau Guardian

International non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are providing “unsafe” and “unhealthy” tent cities for individuals still living on islands impacted by Hurricane Dorian, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness Iram Lewis said yesterday.

“Some of the foreign NGOs are offering shelter, taking tents and makeshift tents and so forth and setting it up for those persons to live in,” Lewis told The Nassau Guardian when asked about cleanup efforts in shantytowns on Abaco.

“Those who are legal, there is no problem with that. But, if they are, if you are doing it in a manner that supports or encourages the law to be broken then that’s unfortunate. So, we have to also check and see those persons that are living in those …

“Of course, these makeshift tents, these tent cities that they are putting up [are] unsafe. We are still in hurricane season. It is unhealthy because they have no restroom facilities. They have no running water and that should not be encouraged.

“The laws of the land are still intact. Hurricane Dorian did not wash away our laws. We still have to abide by the law of the land. We still have to be governed by law and order.”

Lewis’ ministry has been overseeing the reconstruction and recovery efforts on Abaco and Grand Bahama, which were hit by Dorian in early-September.

Dorian is the strongest storm on record to hit The Bahamas, killing at least 65 people.

Some of the storm victims were in shantytowns on Abaco.

Yesterday, Lewis questioned why people would choose to live away from town.

“Why you wanna live in the bushes?” he asked.

“ … If you have your rights to be here, why don’t you come where we are as opposed to creating your own community? There was a gentleman that I met when we went to [Sand Banks] last week. In talking to him, his English was very poor.

“I said to him, ‘How long were you here, sir?’

“He said, ‘Oh, I was here from 1984.’

“I said, ‘You was here since 1984 and cannot speak English?’

“He said, ‘Well, you know how it is when you live in a community of Haitians, there’s no reason for me to learn English.’ So, if he was here from 1984, living with the Bahamians in the communities that were legit, then he would’ve been, obviously he is a part of society, but he would’ve been able to share our culture across the board as well as our language.”

Lewis said that is an example of what happens when individuals isolate themselves in a foreign country.

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