JIS News

Under its squatter prevention monitoring regime, the Squatter Management Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands has made significant progress since it was launched four months ago.
Addressing a press briefing held at the Ministry’s Old Hope Road offices yesterday (Oct. 24), Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke informed that, “emphasis is being placed on detecting emerging incidents, especially in areas not yet affected and more so, in the zero tolerance zones – that is, environmentally sensitive and disaster prone areas or areas earmarked for development”.
He added that the National Land Agency had conducted more than ten evictions based on ministerial approval. In addition, a toll-free hotline number has been established. “The public at large has been using the hotline as a medium to report incidents of squatting as well as to obtain information relating to the prevention monitoring regime,” Mr. Clarke informed.
He said material has been developed and was being circulated to the public to increase the awareness of the impact of squatting and the options available to land owners to combat this problem.
“Meetings have also been held with Parish Council representatives to discuss the status of squatting in the respective areas, and management guidelines, approved by Cabinet have been distributed to various Ministries and agencies,” Minister Clarke informed the briefing.
He said the Unit had begun to develop strong links with key agencies such as the Social Development Commission, in the area of data gathering, as well as strategy development, to tackle squatting in the respective parishes. “The Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Island Special Constabulary Force have also thrown their support fully behind the activities of the Unit,” Mr. Clarke said.
Meanwhile, the Unit has been assisting several informal communities to acquire legal tenure, and this is expected to pave the way for regularizing such settlements.
“Several site visits have been made to various squatter settlements to gather vital information, which will assist in informing the process. The Unit has been in discussions with the Development Bank of Jamaica to explore the possibility of divesting lands located at Pusey Hall Estate in Rocky Point,” the Lands Minister disclosed.
The Squatter Management Unit is also in the process of developing a comprehensive database, which will facilitate decision making. This information, Mr. Clarke said would include “social and economic data on existing settlements and will be using Geographical Information Systems technology as a critical component”.
The Ministry has been guaranteed a loan from the World Bank to facilitate the first in a four-stage process towards developing a comprehensive Squatter Management Policy.