Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Housing Rights... or Forced Evictions?

So last week wasn't all birthday parties. On Monday the 23rd, the mayor of Delmas (a municipality amalgamated with Port-au-Prince) sent his security forces, BRICOR - trained by a sketchy American security company - and national police officers to destroy a displaced people's camp in Carrefour de l'Aeroport, or Kafou Ayopo, where people have been living in tents and makeshift shelters since the earthquake. More than 100 families were threatened, some residents beaten or arrested, and evicted from the public plaza. 

Ben got there about 2 hours after they smashed the tents but the BRICOR were still there pulling stuff into the street so that a bulldozer could scrape it into a dump truck. He was told by an officer that they don't want any abri proviswa (temporary shelters) in the Delmas area because they needed to clean up the streets for tourists. While Ben was there, about 100 people were trying to salvage their belongings.
One woman that he spoke to, 52-yr old Yvonne Andre told him, "I've been here since the earthquake. We don't have anywhere to go - if we had homes, we wouldn't be here." It infuriates me that a popular narrative regarding Haiti's IDP (Internally Displaced Peoples) camps is that people want to live in them. Want to live under a tarp, in rainy season, in unsanitary conditions, with no privacy, and almost a year after food aid has ceased being distributed. A newspaper ad just months after the earthquake featured a picture of a tent camp with "No to squatters and anarchists!" stamped across the photo. Can you imagine?

Evictions continued throughout the week, increasing in intensity, and some Haitian human rights activist friends trying to hold a press conference in a camp were victims of attempted assault by police and BRICOR armed with machetes and shovels. They were protected by the camp residents.

Pressure from concerted national and international efforts have resulted in a halt in evictions, for now. Nigel Fisher, Haiti's UN humanitarian coordinator, sent a letter to the Haitian president, Haitian grassroots groups and activists mobilized, several Congressmen and women issued a statement and many concerned individuals reacted (thank you if you responded to alerts on facebook asking you to call your representative or to call or write the Haitian embassy).

You can read more about what happened on CommonDreams.org, and on Bea's blog, or see more photos taken by Bri Kouri Nouvel Gaye.

In stark contrast, we had the privilege the week before of attending a 3-day forum on housing rights, organized by FRAAKA (Fòs Refleksyon ak Aksyon sou Koze Kay). Since she has already written about the forum so eloquently, I'll quote Other Worlds' Beverly Bell:

"Two days before the Delmas camp demolitions began, several hundred displaced people rallied against evictions in Camp Karade. The event was part of the International Forum on the Housing Crisis, held May 19 -21 and attended by hundreds. More than 40 grassroots and Haitian non-governmental organizations from throughout the capital region and five other towns, as well as 35 displacement camp committees, were represented. In the first broad-based gathering led by impacted people since last year’s disaster, Haitians strategized with each other and with housing activists from elsewhere in the Americas about how to win their guaranteed right to housing.

Sanon Reyneld from FRAKKA, the main organizing group of the forum, said in the opening address, “The right to housing is a debt that the government has toward the poor for the responsibility it never took on housing that caused so many people to die.” The toll from the earthquake, an estimated 225,000 to 300,000, was in large part this high because so many inferior quality houses collapsed.

The final declaration of the forum read in part, "We ask: [1] for the authorities to stop the violence that is accompanying evictions…; [2] for the authorities to arrest and bring to justice all those engaged in violence against those living in camps; [and 3] for them to take all measures to help people find permanent housing so they can relocate out of camps." "

The last day of the forum, a rally in Caradeux.
According to Bell, "Displaced persons are protected by both Haitian and international law. Article 22 of the 1987 Haitian constitution guarantees “decent housing” for everyone. Article 25 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees every individual a “standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including… housing.” Many sections of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs declare protection from displacement, notably for victims of disasters. In a ruling last November, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights directed the Haitian government to stop evicting IDPs unless it provided them safe alternative shelter." Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration reported in April that nearly 170,000 displaced people living in camps are facing the threat of imminent eviction.

FRAKKA and other grassroots organizations trying to deal with the housing crisis have advocacy activities planned for the coming weeks to raise general awareness and put pressure on the government and NGOs to take these issues (and the basic rights of displaced people) more seriously.


nerkert said...

Heart breaking. Thanks for keeping it in the front of our minds.

Ross said...

Hi Benn..
The photos are great also the story was very well done. Have they done any more evictions since the demonstration? I read that they plan to start evicting all from Port au Prince....(??) Love your story. How is living in Haiti? What part do you live in? Would you be interested in showing someone around...and are there cheaper places to stay???
I do a lot of photography myself..as you can see on my facebook page (cecilia russ)... do you have a Facebook site??? I also just finished a book...its in the print shopt now!! Guess the next one will be a HAITI book with photos....
Haiti is on my mind all the time. SO its inevitable that I will get there. I could go but I have to sell off some of my books..

How expensive is land in the country? Way out from POP??? Is there any to buy?
Please reply at my facebook page OR..send me an email--


Housing is a Right!!! Its not even a belief in the U.S. anymore! Apartments are hugely expensive and so many conditions and rules..you just EXIST to pay the landlords!!! I owned a Condo in Fresno...that is much nicer..as its a sort of co-op. Nice and secure. That would be a good model for small homes in Haiti.

Hope to talk to you soon!

Cecilia Russ (Its "Russ" not Ross)..google has a mind of its own!


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