Increasing Risk of Forced Evictions as Relocation Efforts Falter

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Thursday, 10 June 2010 10:41
Ansel Herz reports for Inter-Press Service on the ongoing problems between land owners and the "temporary" camps that have sprung up throughout Port-au-Prince. Following the announcement of a moratorium on forced evictions, there is still massive confusion according to Herz, who writes:
The Haitian government and U.N. agreed in April to a temporary moratorium on forced evictions of camps. They say no landowner should push people from land unless there is an alternative space that meets minimum humanitarian standards.

“We made the decision together. But applying it was another story,” Interior Minister Paul Antoine Ben-Aimie told IPS in an interview. “We haven’t communicated anything to the population so far.”

It is not clear if a moratorium is still in effect. It doesn’t seem to matter because nothing is enforced.

“We’re very much in a gray zone in terms of what’s actually being enforced and what isn’t,” said Ben Majekodunmi, deputy chief for the human rights section of Haiti’s U.N. peacekeeping force, known as MINUSTAH.
Herz tells the story of those camped at the Palais de L’Art events centre, where the landowner has locked the front gate, "forcing at least 150 camp-dwellers to climb over a partially- collapsed five-foot-high wall to access their shelters and belongings." In addition the Red Cross has stopped distributing water to the camp. The camp organizer told Herz:
“If we had another place to go, we wouldn’t stay here suffering like this,” said Reynold Louis-Jean, who heads the camp organising committee. “We have elders, handicapped people, people who lost limbs. Now we have to carry them for them to get in and out.”
Despite pledges by the Haitian government and the UN, very few of the displaced have been relocated. It is not just those living on private land that in need, but the hundreds of thousands who are at risk for flooding and landslides during the hurricane season. Camp Corail, designated as a relocation site from the Petionville Camp has come under increasing criticism, and reports indicate that only a few thousand have actually been relocated. Despite this, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that:
The Inter-Cluster mitigation task force have completed assessments in 57 sites hosting over 161,500 people. Of this, about 72,000 individuals have been identified as living in sites that are at risk.
These numbers don't include the countless number of Haitians who are living on private land that desperately need a solution.

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti has circulated a petition that calls for an end to the forced evictions of earthquake victims. The petition notes that the forced evictions, which include relief agencies cutting off supplies, are actions that are "prohibited under the UN’s Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The UN Principles, which are based upon international humanitarian law and human rights instruments, establish the framework for protecting the rights of displaced people, including the right to basic services (food, water, shelter, education, medical services, and sanitation) and to be protected from violence (4)." The petition calls for:
[A]n immediate stop to forced evictions and the development of a human rights monitoring system to ensure that further violence and violations do not take place. A transparent process to relocate camp inhabitants that is rights-based and protects earthquake victims is essential for national recovery to occur in a manner that promotes dignity and is sensitive to the needs expressed by the communities.

Tags: evictions | relocation