Is the IOM Underestimating the Impact of Forced Evictions?

April 19, 2013

The IOM reported this week that over the last three months, some 27,000 people have left IDP camps, bringing the total amount remaining to around 320,000. The IOM credits the vast majority of this reduction, some 74 percent, on relocation programs – most often a one-year rental subsidy. The report’s “highlights” section says that “Evictions accounted for a 6% decrease in IDP household population.”  Yet the data in the report directly contradicts this. Of a reported reduction of 6,401 households, the IOM says 977 were forced to leave due to evictions, representing over 15 percent of the total reduction.

But even this is most likely an underestimate. Over previous months, there has been “a dramatic new wave of forced evictions,” according to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). One camp which has been under the threat of eviction, and from which some families have already been evicted, is Camp Gaston Margon. On March 22, Amnesty International released a statement, warning that:

Approximately 650 families living in Gaston Margon displacement camp in the Port-au-Prince municipality of Carrefour are currently under the threat of forced eviction. Already, on 15 February, 150 families were forcibly evicted from the camp by police officers and a group of men carrying machetes and knives who were accompanied by a local justice of the peace. The armed men began destroying the families’ shelters, while some people were still inside, and attacked individuals that attempted to stop them. The police also shot their firearms into the air to intimidate the families. One infant was reported to have suffered injuries when armed men and police damaged a shelter with the child still inside. The men reportedly threatened to burn down the entire camp and to kill the children of families who did not move.

During the previous IOM reporting period, Camp Margon had a population of 3,376. During the most recent reporting period, the population had decreased to 2,327. Given the reports of threats of eviction, and at least a partial eviction, it is clear that this reduction is not simply a case of “spontaneous return,” as the IOM report implicitly states.

In videos posted earlier this week by Let Haiti Live, residents of Camp Gaston Margon talk about the threats:

We have been living in this camp for three years and two months since the earthquake. We have faced a lot of threats from the landowner because we are on private land. One time they came to destroy the camp and they ripped our tents, we rebuilt the tents again. I used to live in a first part of the camp and when they forced us to leave I came here. The landowner wants the land to build his business.

We stay here because we have nowhere to go. When it rains we have a lot of problems and in the night it’s as though we live under streetlights because our tarps are no good. If the government relocates us from the camps it would be a miracle.

As the IOM’s own report notes, of those remaining in the camps, some 27 percent are facing the threat of eviction. This compares to 18 percent who stand to benefit from planned return programs. In the meantime, IDPs continue to be targeted with violent threats of eviction. Amnesty International, which will be releasing a report on the issue of evictions next week, issued a statement on Wednesday urging an investigation into “[a]llegations that a man died after being beaten by the police as he took part in a protest against an arson attack on a camp for displaced people in Haiti’s capital.” Amnesty notes that the “attack occurred less than 48 hours after the alleged owner of a portion of the land where the camp is located told the residents that he would “use all possible means to evict them.””

Javier Zúñiga, a special adviser for Amnesty International, said, “Unfortunately this incident is emblematic of the situation of powerlessness in which thousands of people still living in displacement camps find themselves.” Adding, “This terrible event is proof of the consequences of continuing forced evictions in Haiti.”


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