December 10 is recognized worldwide as International Human Rights Day, marking the anniversary of the adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. Enclosed are two statements concerning one of the more pressing human rights issues in the Western Hemisphere -- the fate of hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti who were made homeless by the 2010 earthquake and who are still living, three years later, in appaling conditions of housing or shelter. The statements are issued by the Under Tents housing rights campaign and by OXFAM.
There are some 360,000 people still living in Haiti's earthquake survivor camps. About one in five of those face the ongoing threat of forced eviction by people claiming to be private landowners and whose claims are backed by the Haitian police or government. You can help to speak out on behalf of Haiti's earthquake victims by signing the international petition of Under Tents.
Find the petition here on Change.org.
Stop forced evictions from earthquake survivor camps in Haiti!
Statement by the UNDER TENTS housing rights campaign, December 10, 2012
On the 64th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we call on the international community to act against the human rights abuses taking place in Haiti in the form of arbitrary and illegal forced evictions.
On January 12, 2010, a catastrophic earthquake hit Haiti, killing over 250,000 people and displacing 1.5 million. 358,000 men, women and children still remain in displacement camps in and around Port-au-Prince. Haiti's displaced face not only the challenges inherent to living in tent camps, but one in five are currently at risk of forced eviction.
Forced evictions or the involuntary removal of individuals or communities without appropriate forms of legal or other protection are often prompted by private landowners with complicity from local authorities and police. Most are carried out with no legal protection to displaced families.
The level of violence involved and the disregard for the rights of the displaced demonstrated during these evictions are a scandal. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights recommended in November 2010 that the Government of Haiti issue a moratorium on all evictions from IDP (Internally Displaced People's) camps. The Commission's precautionary principles recommend that those who have been unlawfully evicted be transferred to places with a minimum of sanitary and security conditions, and have effective recourse before tribunals and other competent authorities. The Haitian government has not complied with the Commission's binding recommendations to date.
Haitians displaced by the earthquake are entitled to special legal protection under the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (Guiding Principles), which prohibit forced evictions unless necessary to protect the safety and health of those affected. The Haitian government has a duty to provide these citizens with due process protection such as consultation and adequate notice of eviction, as well as an alternate place to live that meets international standards. Neither private landowners nor the Haitian government, from the local police to the Minister of Justice, are respecting these protections.
Human rights advocates point to the December 2011 government-led eviction of Place Jérémie, a camp on public land, as a prime example. Although families were supposed to receive $500 to relocate (already an amount insufficient for families to find sustainable housing), police came to the camp in the middle of the night, armed with machetes and batons, destroyed tents and violently evicted residents. The housing rights coalition Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (FRAKKA) reported that the majority of families received $25 in compensation. With regards to this case, the International Tribunal on Evictions ruled in September 2012 that the Haitian government should not only protect against violence and threats of forced evictions, but also provide assistance to those who have been evicted and respect the rights of all displaced.
Victims of forced evictions suffer an extensive list of human rights abuses: destruction of their tent 'homes'; theft of their belongings; violent attacks by law enforcement and private thugs; arbitrary arrest; and the withholding of food, water, medical care, and sanitation services. In recent evictions documented by FRAKKA and other grassroots activists, residents have been shot at or beaten by police, their property has been destroyed, and in several cases, entire camps have been set on fire. In October, one woman was raped during the attempted eviction of Camp Lamèfrape.
With a shortage of housing units in Port-au-Prince, evicted families often have no option but to inhabit dangerous and substandard housing. Within one year of the earthquake, families had returned to 64% of houses marked for demolition and 85% of houses needing significant repair. Others have been pushed to live on dangerous hillsides, in slum neighborhoods, or to the outskirts of the city where no infrastructure exists.
Forced evictions of displaced Haitians are a flagrant abuse of their human rights, and should be matter of concern for the international community at large. The Under Tents campaign calls on international donors, allies and the United Nations to urge the Haitian state to:
1. Implement the precautionary measures against forced evictions requested by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in November 2010 and the recommendations of the International Tribunal of Evictions in September 2012;
2. Apply and enforce the Haitian civil and criminal laws that outline procedures and guidelines related to evictions;
3. Ensure that IDP camps are not closed until adequate long-term housing alternatives are provided, which meet international standards in terms of safety, affordability, habitability and accessibility;
4. Ensure that relocations only take place with consultation of displaced communities, especially women;
5. Ensure that Haiti's National Housing Policy includes social or affordable housing programs that Haiti's most vulnerable populations, especially women and girls, can access; and prioritize the implementation of such a policy.
Under Tents is an international campaign working with the Haitian Right to Housing Collective (FRAKKA) to win housing rights for Haiti's displaced. We make this declaration in solidarity with the Collective and other grassroots and Haitian civil society organizations that are speaking out against forced evictions.
Signatories of this statement include:
Agricultural Missions, Inc (AMI); Alternative Chance; American Jewish World Service (AJWS); American Association of Jurists (AAJ); Beyond Borders; Canada Haiti Action Network (CHAN); Centre Medico Social Civil; Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH); Coalition of Classist Tendencies (Venezuela); Commission on Women Workers (Venezuela); Convergence of Movements of the Peoples of the Americas (COMPA); Cry of the Excluded; Caribbean Diaspora Community Services; Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH); Gender Action; Government Accountability Project; Grassroots International; Haiti Justice Alliance; Haiti Support Group; Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH); International Alliance of Inhabitants (IAH), Latin America and Caribbean; Just Foreign Policy; Let Haiti Live; Li, Li, Li! Read; Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Haiti; Other Worlds; Otros Mundos (Mexico); Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL); Take Back the Land Leadership Committee; TransAfrica; Quixote Center; Unitarian Universalist Service Committee; United Methodist General Board of Church and Society
Oxfam calls for urgent action to prevent eviction of thousands from camps
Survey shows vast majority of Haitian quake survivors living in camps are unable to leave
More than 86 percent of people living in the camps in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince say that they are unable to leave these tent cities because they cannot afford to pay rent, according to a survey commissioned by international humanitarian organization Oxfam.* The survey of 3,600 camp residents also revealed that the top two priorities for internally displaced people are the need for financial support to leave the camps (85 percent) and the need to find a stable job (50 percent).
Close to three years after the earthquake, around 358,000 people live in 496 camps scattered around the capital. Three quarters of these camps are on private property, which includes schools and churches. An estimated 78,000 living in the camps located on private land are currently under threat of eviction by landowners, gangs or local authorities. While some people living in public and state-owned land were part of return-relocation programs, alternatives solutions for people living on private land are few and security remains a serious concern for all 358,000 people living in temporary camps.
“The Haitian government has shown important leadership on the return and relocation of internally displaced people. However, it needs to address the issue of people under threat of forced evictions. Thousands of people are in very precarious situation and at risk of finding themselves on the street with nowhere to go. The government should ensure the security and protection of displaced people against violence, intimidation and unlawful threats to evict families,” says Andrew Pugh, Oxfam´s Country Director in Haiti.
In a briefing note, titled 'Salt in the Wound' published today, Oxfam welcomes the Haitian government’s efforts to help families leave camps in order to move to back to their neighborhoods. However, it also calls on the Haitian government and landowners to halt forced evictions and work toward a practical solution that balances the needs of camp residents and landowners. On the anniversary of the human rights declaration, Oxfam denounces the violation of rights of the more than 60,000 people have been forcibly evicted from 152 temporary sites since July 2010.
Oxfam has worked since July 2010 in collaboration with the Platform of Haitian Organizations of Human Rights (POHDH) to mediate potential conflicts, ensure that residents are not being evicted with nowhere to go, and training people in camps to know their rights. The organization has done mediation and negotiated with dozens of landowners. After three years, many landowners also have a right for their properties to be returned to them, according to Oxfam.
Women are more affected by forced evictions, the survey found, especially those who are heads of household (36 percent of all households surveyed).
In the briefing note, Oxfam calls on the international community to provide more support to the Haitian government to help the victims of the 2010 earthquake leave the camps. All stakeholders involved in the future of Haiti, including donors and the United Nations, must give a higher priority to this issue on their humanitarian agenda.
*Oxfam-Quebec commissioned a survey in 16 camps in the commune of Delmas. The methods to collect the information included interviews with camp committees, focus group discussions, assessment of needs and other participative methods. The survey is entitled "Viv Tankou Moun" (Live Like a Human), 11 pages. Read it here, by Oxfam-Quebec, December 2012.
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