Squatters being offered amnesty

ST. JOHN’S — Lands and Agriculture Minister Hilson Baptiste said at least 2,000 people are illegally residing on Crown lands in Antigua & Barbuda. But instead of getting tough on squatters, the Ministry of Lands is offering amnesty.

“If (we) were to get tough, we could drag at least 2,000 people to court tomorrow for illegally occupying and squatting on government land,” Baptiste said.

“We are giving an amnesty and asking people to come in now and regularise it.”

In an interview he explained that the offer of amnesty does not extend to people whose habitation is posing health and other problems, such as those in Perry Bay, Pigotts and Yorks Extension.

“We are talking about people living in lands around the country, in All Saints, Willikies, all around,” Baptiste said.

The timeframe has been listed only as “a short window,” with Baptiste saying his ministry would determine the length of the programme based on compliance.

What the minister would say definitively was that once the grace period ends, penalties would kick in.

In some instances, the squatting dates back decades, with current residents having taken over from their parents and grandparents.

The call for squatters to fly right will be obviously beneficial to the affected individuals, but it will also help government get a real handle on the problem. Baptiste admitted that his technicians only have a estimate on the number of squatters owing to limited manpower.

“I don’t think government, DCA or Lands Division have enough manpower to screen the whole island,” the minister said. (Antigua Observer)

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