BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The Haitian government needs to address a severe shortage of affordable housing in the Caribbean nation where three years after a massive earthquake, little progress has been made to tackle the problem, international charity Oxfam has said.
The housing sector was hard hit by the 2010 earthquake, with losses and damages totalling $3 billion and the demand for housing increasing from 300,000 to 500,000 homes after the quake, Oxfam said in its May report. Over 200,000 people died in the disaster.
A human rights lawyer in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, has been threatened and intimidated since 15 April, when two men were arrested and beaten. One died in custody. The lawyer is now representing the cases of both men.
Human rights lawyer Patrice Florvilus, who is executive director of the NGO Defenders of the Oppressed (Défenseurs des Opprimés – DOP) has, in the last few days, received credible information that his life is in serious danger. This is in relation to his legal representation of the family of Méris Civil who was arrested on 15 April, brutally beaten and died in police custody. Patrice Florvilus also represents Darlin Lexima , who was arrested alongside Méris Civil and beaten but released without charge.
Protesters call for the preservation of their right to housing in response to increased tent camp evictions.
Internally displaced people (IDPs) from tent camps across Port-au-Prince, including Camp Acra on Delmas 33, marched Thursday in a protest led by grassroots organizations dedicated to protecting the housing rights of internally displaced people in Haiti.
According to a dispatch from the organization Under Tents, protestors called for the preservation of their right to housing and held signs reading, “Everyone should live like human beings” and “The rain soaks us, the sun bakes us.”
“The people united will never be defeated!” was heard in several languages as the approval of the Declaration of the World Assembly of Inhabitants was welcomed, cementing the convergence of struggles of the inhabitants of towns and rural areas for systemic changes, which are essential to overcome the global crisis. This is a call to sign!
More than 600 participants across 35 countries from all continents, with their languages, histories and cultures, facilitated in Tunis three exciting days of discussions, debates, knowledge sharing and tools, reinforcing the pillars of global solidarity with local struggles.
Michel Martelly, Haiti’s president, says that under his two-year leadership, the country is attracting foreign investment and seeing job growth, but more than 40 percent of Haitians are without work, and labour activists say the number is much higher.
“If people find jobs they are just temporary jobs, or jobs that are not paying well, they are not decent, they are not sustainable,” Yanick Etienne, a Haitian labour activist, told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile 300,000 Haitians are still living in tent camps. Thousands of families have left, but often as a result of being forcibly evicted from public and private properties, and most have nowhere else to go.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Attorney Reynold Georges showed up with a judge and a police officer on a recent afternoon at Camp Acra, a cluster of tents and plywood shelters scattered across rocky hills dotted with trees in the heart of the Haitian capital.
The lawyer told the camp of some 30,000 people that they were squatting on his land and had to leave, witnesses said. If they didn’t vacate, he said he’d have the place burned down and leveled by bulldozers. Camp leader Elie Joseph Jean-Louis said other angry residents, who had lost their homes in a catastrophic 2010 earthquake, fought back by lobbing rocks at Georges and the people he had come with.
Today grassroots groups including The Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (FRAKKA), Defenders of the Oppressed (DOP), Heads Together for Change (TEKOCH) and Chanje M Leson organized a march with hundreds of people from displacement camps across Port-au-Prince. Protestors called for their right to housing to be respected and denounced the brutal police murder of Civil Mètis, who lived in Camp Acra Adoken.
Download DOP’s report detailing the Camp Acra Adoken incident HERE.
While it is a positive step for the Martelly administration to acknowledge forced evictions publicly for the first time, the claims made in the government’s press release contradicts information gathered by our grassroots allies, testimonies of camp residents’ themselves, and Amnesty International. You can read the full press release from the Prime Minister’s office below.
A closer look at the government’s claims….
1) “We believe that people’s human rights are being protected and guaranteed by the very process of transitioning them to safer dwellings.”
25% of Haitians living in displacement camps are at risk for forced evictions.
“More than three years after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, tens of thousands of people are facing a new crisis. Amnesty International says already displaced residents are being forced from the capital’s tent cities. The Rights Group says the evictions are a violation of human rights and that the government is doing little to stop them. Caroline Malone reports.”