Haiti: UN concerned at forcible evictions of quake survivors from camps

13 September 2011

Voicing concern at the evictions, some of them forcible, of nearly 70,000 survivors of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake from camps sheltering them, the United Nations and its partners have pledged to help the authorities plan closures so as to respect the rights of those affected.

“The humanitarian community in Haiti reiterates its opposition to forced evictions, which only exacerbate existing vulnerabilities of camp populations,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti Nigel Fisher said.

“It recalls that eviction of displaced persons without adequate housing alternatives is a violation of their rights, as outlined in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement,” he added, noting that these principles underscore the State’s responsibility to protect the rights of those within its territory and ensure the establishment of safe and dignified conditions for sustainable returns.

Since the quake struck on 12 January 2010, killing more than 200,000 people and displacing 2.3 million others, 67,162 people have been affected by evictions, with the number of camps under threat increasing 400 per cent over the past year, from 87 in July 2010 to 348 camps this July.

The statement welcomed President Michel Martelly’s reaffirmation of his opposition to forced evictions and his request to municipalities to show patience and refrain from counterproductive actions.

“The humanitarian community is committed to providing all necessary support to the Haitian authorities to ensure that camp closures are conducted in a manner which safeguards the rights of those affected,” Mr. Fisher said, stressing the need to plan camp closures predictably and in consultation with those affected, within the broader framework of improving access to adequate housing while also recognizing property owner’s legitimate rights.

“In support of this process, the humanitarian community proposes to set up a platform that links relevant ministries, local authorities, the Haitian National Police, the private sector and the humanitarian community,” he added. “The proposed structure would allow for effective planning for progressive camp closures, while identifying alternative housing solutions in both urban and rural settings.”

Earlier this month, the independent UN expert on human rights in Haiti, Michel Forst, urged that the police receive clear instructions not to support the forced eviction of people living in formal and informal camps, outside of procedures established by Haitian law, regardless of whether camps are on public or private land.

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