Antigua evicts Barbudan victims of Irma from shelter

AFP Photo

(AFP) – Dozens of Barbudans were forcibly evicted Saturday from a shelter on neighboring Antigua, leaving them without a home almost exactly a year after powerful Hurricane Irma devastated their island.

Around 40 people — half of them children, the youngest just a month old — were ousted from the National Technical Training Center after police and government officials descended on the building in the capital St John’s.

Many had been camped out there since the cataclysmic Category 5 storm powered through the Caribbean early last September, razing homes and infrastructure on Barbuda and prompting a mandatory evacuation to its sister island of Antigua.

The two are the main islands of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

The government said the Barbudans defied two previous deadlines to vacate the school, Antigua’s last remaining shelter.

“The school needs to go back to normal operations,” Philmore Mullin, head of the national office of disaster services, told AFP.

“The Barbudans have a responsibility to return home.”

The government said it will foot the bill to ferry the families and their belongings back to the tiny island, 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Antigua. Just over half of the former 1,800 refugees have already returned.

But the families, including several single mothers, say they have no homes to go back to.

“We don’t have anyone to stay with,” said one, Ionnie Jeffrey. “That’s why we are here.”

Another, Nieoka Simon, said she has severe health problems and needs to be close to a hospital, for herself and for her four-month-old baby. Barbuda’s sole clinic still offers only limited services.

Others expressed concern about uprooting their children from school for the second time in a year. Repairs are continuing at Barbuda’s primary school.

“They’re making us look like criminals,” said Elessa Harris, a mother of three, her belongings piled on the pavement.

“We understand the shelter is not open forever, but they shouldn’t just put kids out on the street.”

Nadia George of the Barbuda Council, which oversees day-to-day internal affairs on that island, accused the Antiguan government of being “downright irresponsible.”

“They should have contacted us and had dialogue, rather than just shutting the place down,” she added.

– Total destruction –

Hurricane Irma was directly responsible for 47 deaths across the Caribbean and southeastern United States, the National Hurricane Center said in a report issued in June, as well as an additional 82 indirect deaths in the US.

According to the report, the tiny of island of Barbuda “took a direct hit from Irma at its peak intensity,” resulting in the destruction of about 95 percent of its infrastructure, including the local airport.

The island was left with no water or communications and was considered “nearly uninhabitable,” with most of its 1,700 residents leaving for Antigua, and the remaining evacuating when Hurricane Jose threatened, leaving it uninhabited for the first time in 300 years.

Preliminary estimates of property damage on the island are between $150 and $300 million.

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    • Is the Government providing shelter and food for the foreigners that according to you the doors are opened for? First the Barbudan’s were not deported,they are free to stay here,find places to rent and support themselves..Really,you people need to stop this open hypocrisy and branding everything as Politics.. Maybe if they were not been encouraged by stupid comments like these,they would be in better standings today..They were given notice,passed deadlines and knew they had to move before the start of the School year,honestly i do not know what more is expected of the Government towards the Barbudan’s..You,ll are very unfair and bias,since you,ll encouraged them that Antigua want their land,then encourage them to go home and Squat on the said Land..The Government has no more responsibility to them than it does to us in Antigua,we do not get Free housing. They need to help themselves.

  1. Am not really pleased of how the eviction process took place since there should have been some dialogue with the group/organization that’s responsible for these Barbudans before putting them on the street. But I must say that some of these Barbudans have no intention of returning home and pick up where they left off. These Barbudans in their own interests should already returned home and make some contribution in the rebuilding effort.. Instead some of them have abandoned that thought and is totally contented to stay here in Antigua no matter how inconvenient and expensive it may be. I can agree that in the early stage of the catastrophe many of them were enticed into staying because of the alleged land grab that our Government was accused of and it’s true that the Government was making it quite easy for them to remain here under the guise of needed development. But that been long gone and many have returned home since and are doing their best working hard to bring to make the Island livable once again these people need to do likewise.

    • The Government never enticed them to stay here under the guise of Development.. What really does that mean? What the Government did was trying to avoid exactly what’s happening now.. The government wanted to rebuild the Island with them been true Owners of their homes.. This nonsense about Land Grab is pure Hogwash- especially coming from someone like you that is supposed to be an Educated person.. With all the passion put into this “Our Lands” talks,what have they to show for their land? You cannot own something which you have no title to,whether it be a piece of land a vehicle or a House,if your name cannot appear on anything to show its your’s,then chances are it isn’t..

  2. The lady in the picture in her red ABLP shirt not smart at all. Lady next time put on one saying Gaston “Ready to Rebuild”
    The children should have on one saying ABLP CARES. The funny thing about all this the ABLP mastermind plan worked by evacuating the people of Barbuda. History will always repeat it self, the ALP/ABLP love hurricane money. Let me remind you of the famous 3.5 million.

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