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JIS News

The Government is collaborating with the World Bank to “provide funding for a full-scale implementation of a squatter management policy”, through the recently launched Squatter Management Unit, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, Donovan Stanberry, has said.
Until then, the Unit will operate based on guidelines which have been approved by the Cabinet.
“The guidelines basically provide a framework within which the government will address the whole matter of squatting,” Mr. Stanberry told JIS News.
He pointed out that the guidelines emanated from a Cabinet sub-committee dealing with matters of Public Order.
On the issue of squatting on privately owned lands, Mr. Stanberry said the existing laws made provisions for private land owners to deal with intruders, adding that the challenge was to ensure that unattended (or idle) lands would not be occupied by squatters.
“Private persons have an obligation to police their own lands. That not withstanding, as part of our effort to contain the problem, we have set up a hotline so that if someone has occupied someone else’s land, a concerned citizen can call the hotline [which is 1-888-977-7344],” the Permanent Secretary said.
He noted that the unit was not designed to remove squatters from land, but to assist in the process by alerting owners who were already facilitated by due process in the Legislature.
“We are not set up as a universal policeman to go and knock down squatters from people’s land. Our job is to monitor and where we see instances of squatting, advise those responsible,” Mr. Stanberry explained.
The Permanent Secretary explained that squatter management of Government-owned lands would adopt the same strategy. “We will not use the bulldozer option.once we recognize the problem, we will pass that on to the National Water Commission, National Land Agency and National Works Agency,” he said. The Squatter Management Unit was established in light of a study by the University of Technology in 2004, which showed that St. Catherine, Clarendon and Kingston alone had in excess of 250 informal settlements.
“We do not have the resources to address all of them simultaneously, but we have mapped the existing settlements, so we are able to identify those who pose the greatest risk,” Mr. Stanberry said.
When Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke launched the Unit in June, he emphasized that there would be “zero-tolerance zones”, and that squatters in these areas would be relocated, especially if the areas were hazard-prone or environmentally sensitive. The Minister pointed out that squatter areas would also be regularized where there was no option for relocation.