Haiti advocates press legal petition as IDP hardship reaches all-time highs

WNN Features

Camp IDPs bang pots in protest
Before the camp was permanently closed displaced protesters bang pots "Bat teneb" (bang pots and pans in protest) at Camp Immaculee in Cite Soleil, September 3, 2010. Image: Ansel Herz

(WNN) PORT-AU-PRINCE: Following seven months after Hurricane Tomas hit the Haitian region, hardship for the remaining 680,000 homeless tent-city residents is now reaching an all-time high. On November 5, 2010, Hurricane Tomas, with 130 kph winds, brought massive floods ushering in an expanded outbreak of cholera as make-shift tents and tarpaulins were ripped from their foundations and floods caused injury, death and 16,000 people to act with immediate voluntary relocation.

Rising violence on forced evictions with forced removal from temporary homes by private land owners and Haitian authorities has now set legal team experts and advocacy rights groups to send a joint summary petition filing to the IACHR – Inter-American Commission on Human Rights demanding a follow-up on the precautionary measures recommendations made by the IACHR that were outlined to the Haitian government.

“The Government of Haiti does not appear to have adopted or implemented the Commission’s recommendations, or even designated a public agency to oversee implementation. To the contrary, the GOH continues to execute a pattern of forced evictions, on both public and private land, and to participate in or fail to prevent evictions by private individuals,” says the formal joint advocates petition.

“Haiti does not have a Housing Ministry, so there is no clear mechanism for the dissemination, analysis or implementation of directives…,” says an April 2011 interview by the Haiti Social Justice Project (Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law) with members of the Haitian government along with residents from IDP camps in Port-au-Prince.

Haiti’s tent-city residents, also known as IDPs – Internally Displaced Persons by relief agencies and regional governments, are often the ones who fall to the bottom of the heap with public services and human rights. Women and children, along with the elderly, are also at the top of the list of those facing increased danger and violence in camps that have little to no security or management. Many women IDPs in Haiti who are taking care of their own children as well as the children of women who are deceased are extra vulnerable to dire conditions.

“I live in a camp – in a tent in a camp – and I am a witness of the violence against women and girls who live in the camp all around me and I’m also a witness to the government’s response, a response which is entirely insufficient,” said activist Malya Villard-Appolon on June 8, 2010 before a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

If any options are available to them, IDPs are trying to leave the camps, but the essential and root problem is that they don’t know where to go. A recent March 2011 survey of IDPs by United Nations partner, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), reveals that a downward trend is occurring for residents living in IDP camps located in Croixdes-Bouquets, Delmas, and Port Au Prince.

But displacement from the camps does not mean that those who are leaving the camps are easily finding homes. “…a considerable number of IDPs that have left the sites (camps) have moved into precarious and temporary situations in the neighborhoods,” says the recent March 2011 IOM data.

The consortium of legal and advocacy experts are asking the IACHR and the Haitian government authorities to: “Provide illegally evicted displaced people with effective judicial remedies.” Currently 60 per cent of all IDP camps in Haiti are located on privately owned land. Of the 70 per cent of those who owned their homes before the earthquake ravaged the area, only 19 per cent have been able to rebuild their homes.

“When asked where they would go if they left the IDP sites, 55% of respondents from Port Au Prince and 26% of respondents from the provinces reported that they did not know where they could go,” says the IOM.

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