Today is the deadline given by Minister of Works Lennox Weston for the remaining Barbudans residing at the Barrymore Hotel to vacate the premises.
Touring the facility, Weston said the remaining Barbudans had no excuse for lingering at Barrymore instead of returning home to Barbuda.
Yesterday, OBSERVER interviewed some of the Barbudan living on the property to find out their side of the story.
We spoke to a mother of three young children, who told us about the struggles she has faced in living at the hotel.
She informed us that she was deeply frustrated with what she alleged was a lack of support from the government.
The mother said she has been at Barrymore since Hurricane Irma, and returning to Barbuda – which is still under reconstruction – will present major challenges in raising her children, including a baby.
She claimed that constant harassment by the government has made it difficult for her to live at the hotel throughout her time there.
“Right now, we are being harassed over and over about this situation. One time we were told we had to leave but another time we were told we did not have to leave,” she said.
The mother recently travelled to Barbuda to assess the living conditions there. However, as many persons were still living in tents, she became concerned about the well-being of her three young children if they were to return.
“I went to Barbuda for four weeks and Barbuda is not even halfway restored . . . I am not going back to Barbuda to live in a tent because I have children,” she said.
She added that the hospital, community centers, and police stations continue to be in disrepair, Barbudans live in tents that have mold, and issues with the power grid remain unresolved.
Additionally, the mother told OBSERVER that her children had been going to school until recently when they contracted what health officials informed her was scabies.
“I could not get them into school because they pick out a disease from the compound. The issue escalated when my baby’s skin also broke out, in addition to my children and me. When the health officials arrived here, they said it was scabies which was shocking.” she said, adding that they were isolated and the place was fumigated.
We also spoke to another resident who said it is not that Barbudans do not want to leave, but simply that they do not have anywhere to return to.
Meanwhile, OBSERVER was shown a text message sent by Gaston Browne to one of the Barbudans on the compound, giving assurance that the administration will not forcibly remove any Barbudans from the Barrymore Hotel.
Even while some Barbudans continue to reside in the hotel, the Ministry of Works continues its plans to transform the hotel into a residential area for foreign nationals.
This is the second time in months that Barbudans are being asked to leave facilities meant to house them after the devastation of Hurricane Irma.
Late last year the government was forced to close to government shelters to encourage Barbudans to return home.