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‘We can’t leave our home and go on the streets’

‘We can’t leave our home and go on the streets’

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Despite being given written notice to vacate the spot on which his house is located since October 24, 2011, Vermont resident Emrol John insists he will not move unless the government “assists him”.{{more}}

John, whose home is in the path of a new bridge to be constructed in Vermont, says he has been given a deadline of Sunday, February 12, to leave.

“I am just here waiting on them for my relocation, and if they can’t relocate me, then they will have to kill all six of us in here, because we have nowhere to go and we can’t leave our home and go on the streets,” John, who is squatting on the site, stated.

Minister of Transport and Works Julian Francis, however, refutes John’s claims that he has not been offered assistance, saying that the government has gone beyond their policy in the assistance offered to John.

Francis, who called in to We FM’s Shake Up programme on Wednesday, said that when he was appointed Minister of Transport and Works, he informed John that he needed to start making arrangements to vacate the spot, because a bridge to be constructed in the area “will fall plum onto where the building is.”

The Transport and Works minister said in the case of persons squatting on lands where government developments are to be done, a value is done for the structure and a payment will be made.

According to the minister, the person then has the opportunity to salvage what they can from the structure, and an alternative piece of land will be made available to them.

The option is then given for the individual to occupy the land and pay for it when they can.

Francis said this offer was made to previous squatters in other areas where government projects were done.

“…What was done in any part of the country that we face a situation like this, the same will apply to Mr. John.”

The Minister, however, said that he went beyond the government’s policy to assist John with his relocation.

“I have gone further. I’ve said to the Chief Engineer, that look, let him find a place to live and pay six months for him to relocate.

“So, he will get the value of his structure, he can salvage what he wants from it…”

Francis also disclosed that the Chief Surveyor is in the process of locating another piece of land in the Vermont area for John, which will be made available to him to relocate and start building a new home.

John, however, is denying that he was ever offered a house rent free, for six months, until he is relocated.

The unemployed father of four said it was not until the minister made the statement on radio this week that he knew of the offer.

“No, that is not true. Since October to now, all I am receiving is letters from the Ministry about an eviction notice, that I must move my structure or otherwise they will come and push it down.

“Nobody from the Ministry or the Government came and told me they going to give me a six month rent and whether me expect them to build back me place or what so ever. All they telling me is to move and it’s me and me family and we have nowhere else to go,” John told SEARCHLIGHT.

He claims that he has been residing at the location since 2000 when he left his mother’s home.

He explained that when he settled there, the location was a garbage dump; he decided to clean it up and build his home.

He said he was also given a permission letter from the Chief Surveyor to take to the VINLEC and CWSA for connection of electricity and water respectively.

The 38-year-old man added that he supports the construction of the bridge, but at the same time claims that the government needs to find a new home for him.

“I have no problem with the bridge, but for me and my family relocating, that is what I have the problem with.

John said the piece of land identified for him by the government is in the ‘Top Village’ area in Vermont.

“The land cost $23,000 and if they (government) pays for it and help me rebuild, then I would move, but that is not being offered and I have no way else to go,” he stated.

Francis, however, during his call to We FM on Wednesday stated that the government does not build houses for informal settlers.

“This is the policy that we have established. A provisional sum was put into the contract (for the construction of the bridge) to facilitate this type of manoeuver, and that is what we are proposing on this matter,” Francis added.

The construction of the Vermont – Francois bridge is being funded by the Government of Taiwan, with the sums of EC$402,300 and $581,000 being handed over just last month. (AA)

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