UN human rights experts* today called on the Bahamas to halt planned demolitions this week of approximately 600 homes at two informal settlements known as the Farm and the Farm Road on Abaco island.
A community of Haitian descendants and migrants numbering up to 2,000 people, including many women and children, are at serious risk of becoming homeless as a result of the clearance expected to take place on 7 May.
“The planned forced evictions and demolitions constitute a serious violation of the human right to adequate housing and will result in arbitrary internal displacement,” the experts said. “To make things worse, this is scheduled to occur during the COVID-19 pandemic, threatening to expose an already vulnerable minority to all kinds of risks for their health and safety.
“Most of these people have nowhere else to go. If their homes are destroyed, they are at serious risk of falling into homelessness and extreme poverty. While it is important to move away from informal settlements lacking in safety and infrastructure, vulnerable minorities should not be left behind in the Government’s efforts to rebuild more resilient communities.”
In early September 2019, Hurricane Dorian ravaged several parts of the Bahamas islands, completely destroying several informal settlements on Abaco, where many Haitian migrants and Bahamians of Haitian origin used to live. After several months of living in evacuation shelters, many of the survivors had to completely rebuild their homes – it is these that the authorities intend to destroy.
In addition to the risk of becoming homeless, some migrants among the residents of the two informal settlements fear that they may be detained and deported, the UN experts said.
In recent years, there have been reports of undocumented migrants experiencing ill-treatment in detention, before being deported. Families have also been separated as a result.
“We urge the Government of the Bahamas to immediately cease further evictions and housing demolitions. Furthermore we call on the Government to review its migration policy, which includes the widespread use of detention and expulsion of migrants,” the experts said.
The Supreme Court of the Bahamas has already granted court orders to halt evictions in informal settlements on the Bahamas’ main island New Providence.
“We urge the Bahamas to follow due legal process and respect existing judicial orders. This includes not only waiting for the outcome of the Supreme Court full review of the Government’s policy to demolish informal settlements, but also to ensure full adherence to international human rights standards governing relocations, evictions, and internal displacement.
“People living in informal settlements need to be consulted, receive security of tenure, and either be allowed to remain where they currently live – or if they need to be relocated for safety reasons – be properly rehoused and provided with access to water, sanitation, electricity and access to other essential public services.”
The UN human rights experts urged the Government of the Bahamas, which currently holds the Vice Presidency at the Human Rights Council, to ensure that its internal policies are implemented in full compliance with international human rights standards.