Private Landowners Urged to Monitor Property to Prevent Squatting

Senior Director of the Land Administration and Management Division in the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, Dr. Mohini Kiswani is urging private landowners to implement stringent measures to prevent informal settlers from squatting on privately owned lands.
In an interview with JIS News, Dr. Kiswani said that the practice of establishing squatting communities was not only illegal, but had a variety of negative environmental, socio-economic and public health concerns.
“According to our survey, we have found that there are about 595 squatter settlements islandwide, and this is growing. The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, through the Squatter Management Unit and in collaboration with other Ministries, is making very effort to stem further proliferation. While the government deals particularly with squatting on government owned lands.we have to insist that private landowners monitor their lands constantly,” she emphasised.
Meanwhile, Basil Forsythe, Director of the Squatter Management Unit in the Ministry told JIS News that if a squatter is left undisturbed for 12 years on private land, it was difficult for the private owner to remove him or her.
“Under the Trespass Act, the landowner has to take action against the trespasser within the first year of occupation, so as to prevent the illegal occupier from enjoying quiet possession and hence having the case debarred from the court. Therefore, if during the first year the landowner or his agent tries to get informal settlers off his land and they ignore him, then he could approach the Court and get the necessary eviction orders, which would be carried out by the police,” he informed.
Outlining certain measures that private landowners can implement to prevent squatting, Dr. Kiswani informed that landowners could construct a fence around their property, place no trespassing signs on their properties, get a caretaker to monitor the property as well lease or sell the unused land.
“The bottom line is that you have to consistently monitor your land, as every landowner is responsible for his own land. Remember the squatter management unit is here to assist you.but every owner must look after his or her own land,” the Senior Director advised.
“Private landowners need to be more vigilant in terms of early detection of squatting activities; take the necessary steps as afforded by existing laws to deal with the situation, and where you are in doubt, contact the squatter management unit in the Ministry,” Mr. Forsythe told JIS News.
Dr. Kiswani explained that informal settlers who are desirous of regularizing informal settlements, must first receive permission from the landowner.
In the case of Government-owned land, the individual must write a letter to the Commissioner of Lands indicating interest. Based on the availability and suitability of land for the purpose requested, the Commissioner will refer his recommendation to the Land Divestment Committee, which will review the application and make its recommendation to the Minister, who will give his final approval.

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