Over 20 families, among them a three-week-old baby, were evicted from the former Petrotrin bungalows at Clifton Hill, Point Fortin, early yesterday.
Police officers swooped down on the properties around 5.15 am and evicted the occupants, who were allegedly occupying the premises illegally. However, the occupants, many of whom were Spanish nationals, claimed they have been paying rent to an individual to stay at the houses.
With their belongings thrown on the roadside and the front gates padlocked, the families said they have nowhere to go. Some people said they would have to stay in their cars, others were begging lodging from friends and relatives while others said they would have to camp on the roadside.
Akiel Francois said he was at work in San Fernando when his 35-year-old wife and four children, aged three weeks, two, five, and 14, were forced out of the house by the police.
“I was in work when I got the call and I went home to see all the stuff on the road. My wife was arrested and all the children taken down to the station. I went to the station and got my kids. My wife, who had our three-week-old baby, was released after 12 (noon).”
Francois’ wife said she was among some 15 “tenants” who were detained and then released.
Francois said he had been living at the bungalow for a year and a half and was paying $2,000 per month to a man. He said the man had documents showing he was in charge of the land, adding they never got a warning or eviction notice.
“This was a shock this morning, no eviction letter. They just come and say we have to move our belongings and carrying my family by the station. They were pointing guns and it have lil children here. My children are traumatised. My 14-year-old son goes to St Benedict’s College and he had an online exam today that he miss. Right now my daughter sleeping in the car.”
He said the police took their rent payment receipts and said it would be returned to them pending further investigations.
Point Fortin MP Kennedy Richards Jr said no one was authorised to rent, sell or occupy the bungalows. He said the occupants were given notice to vacate the premises some time ago.
“They were illegally living there and the police came and did what they had to do. The company has all rights to take back the property. A lot of Spanish people were staying there also, I don’t know if they are legally or illegally here.”
However, he admitted the occupants were also victims.
“It is heartbreaking at the end of the day because people don’t have a place to rest their heads. The person at fault in all of this is the person who put them there.”
He said further investigations will have to be conducted. The “landlord” was also taken in for questioning by police yesterday.
Point Fortin Mayor Saleema Thomas said she was aware of the incident but was not in a position to comment because she had no information. Attempts to get a comment from Petrotrin Legacy, the entity responsible for the bungalows, were unsuccessful yesterday.