(ANTIGUA OBSERVER) — Barbudans, who continue to ignore repeated notices to leave the National Technical Training Centre, (NTTC) shelter in Antigua will be forced to do so.
This most recent declaration from Prime Minister Gaston Browne came days after police and government officials went to the building on Saturday, to escort Barbudans off the premises.
The Barbudans, mostly women and young children, have been living at the shelter since the passage of Hurricane Irma which devastated the sister island a year ago. While a few heeded the warnings, and left the facility on the weekend, several families have remained at the facility indicating they have nowhere to go.
Prime Minister Browne said the government is willing to provide some sort of support to the Barbudans whether in the form of reduced rental agreements or otherwise.
He, however, stressed that the NTTC is a training facility which should be used for the training of young people and the Barbudans will not be allowed to stay there permanently.
“The Barbudans must understand that the NTTC is a training facility and that we cannot prejudice the development of the youth of this country for the benefit of a few Barbudans. We are sensitive to their needs, in fact, the government has a programme in place to build additional units over in Barbuda to accommodate those who have been displaced,” Browne said.
He added that the government is fully aware that there is a shelter in Barbuda that is not being utilised by the Barbudans.
“It is not a case that they cannot go back to Barbuda and be accommodated in shelters – the provisions are in place. Their children could also be accommodated in the schools on the island. Some of them have a preference to stay here in Antigua which we have no problem with, but they cannot continue to live in Antigua at the expense of the government,” the PM maintained.
Meanwhile, the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) released a statement yesterday indicating that the sports complex in Barbuda, which has been earmarked as a shelter for Barbudans, who were evacuated from the island, can house those who are remaining at the NTTC.
The agency said it has equipped the Sports Complex with the necessary amenities needed to facilitate the Barbudans and there are also separate rooms that can accommodate families.
NODS said that while some occupants of the NTTC claim there is nowhere for them to go, they are lying because the shelter in Barbuda is under-occupied and can accommodate up to 35 individuals.
In response to the unsanitary conditions that have been noted by one occupant at his home in Barbuda, the disaster agency has said that it has provided cleaning supplies to Barbuda to help residents clean their properties.
The agency said it had given the occupants at NTTC a deadline of Friday August 31 to return to Barbuda, with the assistance of NODS or find alternative housing here in Antigua on their own.
It said several families with varying challenges have been staying at the facility. Some have found accommodation here in Antigua and left the shelter over the weekend.
Two other families, who are in the process of finding properties to rent, have been given until Wednesday to relocate. If they do not find somewhere to live in Antigua NODS has indicated that it stands ready to facilitate their trip back to Barbuda.