Camp evictions

The past week has brought a new wave of disasters to Haiti. However, this time it was in the form of a human rights violation, through the systematic eviction of 3 camps located in highly visible, public spaces. Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp members were forcibly removed and even beaten this week, as police destroyed their tents and belongings. No compensation or transportation was offered. No strategic plan or next steps were presented. The worst news is that 3 more camps might be on the chopping block soon.

During President Michel Martellys’ pre-inaugural trip to the United States, he declared that one of his 4 main priorities was to help relocate people from IDP camps. The UN Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster has stated that the Martelly Government’s strategy on “Return and Relocation” for camp members will be piloted through 6 camps. These include the 3 camps that have just faced such devastating destruction and evictions and therefore casts serious concerns on the overall strategy.

In a recent news article, Delmas Mayor Wilson Jeudy, proudly defended these evictions, often portraying camp members as criminals who deserve no type of additional support to relocate. Mayor Jeudy rationalizes the move thusly: “Everyone was a victim of the earthquake, there is no question of paying people to empty public spaces they’ve occupied for several months…We cannot encourage foreign investors with such images.”

If the United States’ push for increased foreign direct investment might be a potential catalyst, then it means that our government must set the record straight and urgently speak out against these evictions.

In November, 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights made the following recommendations  concerning camp evictions: “Implement effective security measures to safeguard the physical integrity of the inhabitants of the camps, guaranteeing especially the protection of women and children; train the security forces in the rights of displaced persons, especially their right not to be forcibly expelled from the camps; and ensure that international cooperation agencies have access to the camps.”

It is clear that these recommendations were not implemented at the most recent series of camp evictions this past week. To make matters worse, all three of these camps, including the one near the national airport, were official camps that had Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) liaisons in 2011. Yet, none of these liaisons were present.  To make matters worse, the UN Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster in Haiti canceled its meeting this week. This does not bode well for high camp transparency or accountability.

Thankfully, some brave members of Congress are speaking out against these forced evictions. Representatives Donald Payne, Yvette Clarke, Maxine Waters and Frederica Wilson all made a joint statement on Wednesday, condemning the evictions.

“It is mind-boggling that any government official would condone or ignore such actions during a time when Haiti is seeking to recover from the crisis stemming from the January 2010 earthquake… During President Martelly’s visit to the United States, we were all encouraged by his assertion that Haiti will face a new day—a new beginning. We extended, and continue to extend, our arms to assist and support the people of Haiti and its government as it transitions upward. We will not, however, idly stand by and hear such reports of evictions, without seeking an explanation or taking action.”

To read the full statement, visit Rep. Yvette Clarke’s website: http://clarke.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=243274.


ActionAid USA’s Elise Young’s Letter to the Editor in The New York Times

 
 
May 2, 2011

Our Promises to Haiti

To the Editor:

Haitians Forced Out of Tents to Homes Just as Precarious” (front page, April 24) describes the dire situation faced by at least 680,000 Haitians.

Precarious living conditions and forced evictions have worsened gender-based violence, food insecurity and health concerns in the country.

Both the incoming Haitian government and the United States government must now deliver on their promises and address this problem. This includes investing in a nationwide system of land reform, redistributing plots of land to poor communities and providing housing to those in desperate need of a permanent home.

Based on recent meetings with Haitian civil-society leaders, it is clear to me that a key to reconstruction is for Haitians themselves, especially grass-roots and women’s groups, to play a greater role in the reconstruction process. For recovery to succeed, the most vulnerable must be deeply involved in the creation and implementation of the national housing plan.

ELISE YOUNG
Washington, April 27, 2011

The writer is a senior policy analyst, for Haiti advocacy, at ActionAid USA.