Wednesday, 6 February 2013
700 HAITIAN FAMILIES EVICTED FROM MAKESHIFT CAMPS
Haitian authorities forcibly evicted nearly 700 families from two make-shift camps in the last two weeks, reported Amnesty International.
Hundreds of families were left homeless in a new wave of evictions.
The families, all victims of the earthquake over three years ago, were not given enough time to gather their belongings before their shelters were destroyed.
Police officers violently evicted 84 families from camp Fanm Koperativ in Port-au-Prince on 22 January.
Ten days earlier, on the third anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake, municipal officials and officials from the Civil Protection Agency forcibly evicted around 600 families from Camp Place Sainte-Anne, also in Port-au-Prince.
Amnesty is calling on the authorities to stop all illegal and violent evictions of people living in make-shift camps and take meaningful steps to provide them with appropriate housing.
According to information gathered by Amnesty, the families evicted from camp Fanm Koperativ were not given any notice of the eviction.
They were forced out of their make-shift tents by the police accompanied by a group of men armed with machetes and hammers.
Suze Mondesir, a member of the camp committee, recounted their ordeal: ‘Around 10am a group of police officers accompanied by men armed with machetes and knives arrived at the camp.
‘They insulted us and began to demolish our tents.
‘The men pushed us around and the police waved their guns at us to prevent us from reacting.’
A few days before the eviction, residents had organised a press conference to denounce the lack of response from the authorities regarding their situation.
Residents believe that the expulsion might have happened as a reprisal to that.
Javier Zúñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International, said: ‘Evicting people living in make-shift camps inflicts yet more trauma on people who have already lost everything in the earthquake.
‘By not even allowing them time to gather their things and by leaving them out on the street, the authorities are denying earthquake victims their dignity.
‘Forcing people out of camps must be avoided at all costs, and there must be genuine consultation and the provision of adequate alternative housing before any eviction takes place.
‘The Haitian authorities must prioritise the housing needs of those people still living in dire conditions in displacement camps three years after the earthquake.’
Women have been particularly affected by the eviction as they have not only lost their homes and belongings but also their small business initiatives.
Cléane Etienne, a resident from Camp Fanm Koperatif said: ‘They kicked over the pot of coffee which I was going to sell. That was my livelihood. Now I need money to start over.’
Another woman said: ‘Not only did we lose our belongings but we also had to buy wood and tarpaulins to rebuild our shelters, because we have nowhere else to go.’
The residents at Camp Place Sainte-Anne were informed of the eviction only five days in advance and were promised 20,000 gourdes (approximately £330) per family.
However, according to the local organisation Groupe d’Appui aux Refugiés et Repatriés, 250 families have yet to receive the money.
On the day of the eviction, none of the families were given enough time to gather their belongings before their shelters were destroyed.
Carnise Delbrun, a member of the camp committee in Camp Place Sainte-Anne, said: ‘We saw municipal officials firing in the air, throwing stones so we would leave, the police came later to back them up.
‘Four people were hurt including a one year-old baby and a five year-old child who were injured by a plank of wood when the municipal officials were destroying their tent.
‘Other residents were hit by stones and a lot of us lost money, mobile phones and other personal effects.’
On 12 January 2010, a devastating earthquake in Haiti left 200,000 dead and 2.3 million people homeless. Hundreds of millions of pounds were pledged in interntional aide.
American troops were sent in and fired on the poor of the working class area of Port-au-Prince accusing them of looting when in fact they were trying to secure bottled water for their families.
Later, UN troops brought cholera to the devastated area and caused thousands more deaths.
Three years on, it is estimated that more than 350,000 people are currently living in 496 camps across the country.
Many of the 350,000 people still living in makeshift camps following the 2012 earthquake are also at risk.
Decades of government inaction, growing frustration and decreasing citizen tolerance leave little margin for error.
In their latest report Governing Haiti: Time for National Consensus, the International Crisis Group alluded to the coming revolutionary struggles which lie ahead for the Haitian masses.
‘The challenges facing Haiti are not difficult to see’, says Javier Ciurlizza, Crisis Group’s Latin America and Caribbean Program Director.
‘They focus on a need for good governance, consensus building among the elites, effectively implemented poverty reduction strategies and strengthened rule of law.
‘Sadly, these challenges have never been confronted effectively. Haiti today presents little cause for optimism’.
The report stated: ‘The Haitian brand of politics in effect virtually excludes the majority of citizens, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for any administration to govern effectively.
‘The electoral calendar laid down in the constitution is never respected, so the terms of elected officials expire without replacement, giving rise to institutional instability.
‘Elections are largely a contest between political and economic elites, as a myriad of parties give voice to few, fail to mobilise the electorate and fragment parliament.
‘Voter participation has been falling since 2006, along with public confidence.
‘Poverty reduction strategies need to be effectively implemented.
‘It is increasingly evident that functional governance is unlikely until and unless the business community, religious, professional and political leaderships can reach an accord.
‘Otherwise Haiti faces increasing internal unrest.’
Ciurlizza added: ‘Sadly, these challenges have never been confronted effectively.
‘Haiti today presents little cause for optimism. For every instance of progress on any of these fronts, there are multiple instances of regression or, at best, stasis’.
The report concludes:: ‘What has changed, though, are the recent signs of a genuine demand for an end to that stalemate from donors who are also showing strong signs of fatigue.
‘If Haiti is to pull through, the better angels in the natures of its leaders are going to have to prevail for once and prevail soon.
‘This is a thin reed on which to float the country’s future; but it might be all it has.’