The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has given the Barbudans currently living at the Barrymore Hotel until Wednesday 27th March to find alternative accommodation.
According to Minister of Works Lennox Weston the government intends to renovate the Fort Road facility in order to house the Chinese and Cuban delegations, as well as other personnel, who will be visiting the twin island to assist with projects.
The secondary use of the facility will be to conduct meetings and provide practical training for young hoteliers.
“We are waiting on the other Barbudans to leave so we can convert the entire facility into what will look like a small gated community that is safe for international workers and for any other local functions we want,” Weston said on a tour of the property.
Since the devastation of Barbuda by Hurricane Irma in 2017, some Barbudans were relocated to the facility for an allotted time which was later extended due to the extent of repairs still needed to homes in Barbuda.
However, Minister Weston said that time is coming to an end. “The Antiguan government has been kind, we have gone beyond the call of duty to accommodate the Barbudans during the crisis, after the crisis, and almost two years after the crisis.”
Weston said this cannot be tolerated because “they have opportunities in Barbuda…there is really no excuse for them to stay here”.
There are currently about 30 Barbudans residing at the hotel and many who have already left vandalized some of the rooms.
“We have worked in a humane way to try to ask them to readjust themselves and find facilities and find employment. Many have moved out but we still have a batch of about 30 who seem as if they have a right and entitlement for free living and they have virtually said they are not moving. But as you know, this is government property and we are giving them until the end of this month, the 27th of this month to relocate themselves or we will relocate them,” Weston asserted.
According to him, the Barrymore Hotel was sold to the government by the Hadeed group, which is expected to transfer the title deed shortly.
With 11 or 12 buildings already completed, the government hopes to complete the Barrymore rehabilitation project in six months. The Public Works Minister said the new gated facility will save the government money used to rent homes for international workers and trainers.
Weston added that this timeframe in which the Public Works Department can return the facility to its glory days is dependent on the Barbudans.
He made it clear that the government is committed to the deadline, saying, “We have asked them for the tenth time to leave peacefully and freely, but sometimes in this world people need a little bit of nudging”.