Over 300 squatters on East Bank sea defence reserves begin relocation process 

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Some 317 persons squatting along the East Bank Demerara sea defense reserve on Wednesday started their land application process to be relocated.

The application process was spearheaded by the Minister of Housing and Water Collin Croal who engaged squatters at the Diamond/Herstelling Neighborhood Democratic Council.

These squatters currently occupy plots of land along the sea defence reserve at Grove, Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Farm, Herstelling and Covent Garden. According to the chairman of the River and Sea Defence Board, Brigadier Gary Beaton, the land is owned by the Ministry of Public Works and it prevents flooding along the East Bank corridor.

According to Minister Croal, the occupants must move because they are squatting on “zero tolerance” lands, meaning these areas cannot be regularised.

“I call this meeting today so we can start the clock ticking. And so we can set the stage and the modalities of how we move forward,” Minister Croal said, and added that of the 317 squatters, 47 persons had already started the application process.

Squatters join a queue for their houselot application process to begin (Photo: DPI/ January 11, 2023)

These persons will be addressed immediately while the other residents will be assisted with their application process.

The chief Executive Officer of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), Sherwyn Greaves, explained that an area at Great Diamond was identified for persons to commence building.

“We don’t want this process to delay long, as Minister explained; you have to move from where you are currently [because] it is not only harmful to the environment but harmful to you. We don’t want you to be living under those conditions for much longer,” Greaves said.

In addition, the Demerara Bank Limited was present to assist persons with financial options that are best suited for their situation. The chairman said the CH&PA will assist with all other questions and queries.

Further, Minister Croal said the Men on a Mission and the Ministry will assist persons with constructing their homes. The Ministry will also give special attention to immigrants who make up the list of squatters.

Minister Croal urged all residents to be honest in this process to acquire houselots and warned that the Ministry is aware of all persons who are on the list to be relocated. Therefore persons cannot try to join the list now by squatting in the area.

“Nobody don’t get smart after now. You know why we delayed this meeting so that we could have done our groundwork. So from November to now, we’ve been doing all the groundwork. We have 317 structures [and] we have the pictures of those structures.”

“So do not plan to go and continue building and say that you will engage us because you think you can get smart,” Minister Croal said.

He also asked squatters to report instances of new squatters moving in.

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