Press Release from Haiti’s Prime Minister Adressing Forced Evictions—Accurate or Not?

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.

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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.
  •  Forced evictions are often violent, occur with little to no notice and according to Amnesty, “Homelessness is the most immediate consequence of forced eviction, for those living in Haiti’s makeshift camps and already coping with displacement, it signals the start of yet another phase of uncertainty, disruption and distress.”

2) “International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirm that of the 1.5 million people displaced by the earthquake and previously living in temporary camps, nearly 80 percent have been relocated to more permanent housing through government-led programs.”

  • Moving people out of camps isn’t a solution if it isn’t sustainable.
  • People that have moved to cinderblock houses and apartments have complained that they don’t have enough money to cover next year’s rent and will once again be homeless.
  • IOM’s Project 16/6 coordinator candidly stated: “[w]e’re not talking about a house. We’re talking about renting a room, space on the floor, with a roof, access to water, a communal kitchen, maybe a toilet”. Residents cite facing the same challenges as before in accessing water, sanitation, washing facilities and electricity. Ensuring education for their children and employment also remains a challenge.
  • The return and relocation programs also account for an 11% decrease in the overall IDP household population.
  • Evictions accounted for a 6% decrease in IDP household population.
  • In mid-2012, Canaan, which has no services of any kind, was home to more than 40,000 people who had been evicted from camps. This perpetuates the cycle of poverty.

3)  “The administration cannot control what private landowners choose to do with their property.  This is up to the judicial branch to resolve.”

  • Often local police are involved in forced evictions—“the police also shot their firearms into the air to intimidate the families”
  • Police have stated they don’t have the resources to investigate landowners intimidating and harassing residents and yet they can block protests and arrest protestors?
  • Camp Toto was built on “public utility” land and yet residents have still been violently evicted.

Not satisfied with the government’s response so far? Stand in solidarity with the displaced and their struggle for safe, affordable, permanent housing. Take Action!

Read the full press release:

Haiti’s Prime Minister Reaffirms Commitment to Universal Human Rights for All Haitians. Denounces camp evictions by private landowners, stresses that 80 percent of persons displaced by the earthquake are now in safer housing through government-led programs

Published: Thursday, Apr. 25, 2013 – 11:06 am

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, April 25, 2013 — /PRNewswire/ – In response to Amnesty International’s reports of human rights violations regarding alleged forced evictions of individuals living in make-shift [displaced persons] camps, Haiti’s Prime Minister, Laurent Lamothe, has issued the following official statement to set the record straight.

“First, I want to categorically state that Haiti is committed to protecting the human rights of all Haitians.   Since taking office, the Martelly-Lamothe government has been committed to moving our men, women and children from these camps – where people have indeed been living in subhuman conditions.  We are doing everything possible to transition all persons displaced by the devastating 2010 earthquake, out of the camps and into shelter where they will be safer, and can resume their lives with some semblance of normalcy.”

The prime minister stressed that recent statements/figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirm that of the 1.5 million people displaced by the earthquake and previously living in temporary camps, nearly 80 percent have been relocated to more permanent housing through government-led programs.

Mr. Lamothe added, “We are doing our best to insure that 100 percent of our people can either return to their original homes or to other safer dwellings.  This is a national imperative, especially as the hurricane season approaches and we face the prospect of yet another natural disaster.  We believe that people’s human rights are being protected and guaranteed by the very process of transitioning them to safer dwellings.”

The Prime Minister reasserted that while there were private landowners who may have been responsible for evicting individuals from their property, it was emphatically not something the government endorsed.  “The administration cannot control what private landowners choose to do with their property.  This is up to the judicial branch to resolve.”

Contact Office of the Prime Minister, Communications Unit Gary Bodeau (509) 44 11 11 11 gary.bodeau@primature.ht

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