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Amnesty wants a halt to forced evictions of earthquake victims

Published: Monday July 25, 2011 | 10:17 am Comments 0

LONDON, CMC – The London-based human rights group, Amnesty International, has called on Haitian authorities to stop the forced evictions of people affected by the earthquake last year that killed an estimated 300,000 and left more than a million others homeless.

Amnesty International said about 500 Haitian families have been forcibly removed from a makeshift camp in central Port-au-Prince, leaving them without shelter for the third time since the January 12, 2010 devastating earthquake.

“Port-au-Prince's Mayor must stop these illegal forced evictions of earthquake victims until adequate alternative housing can be found for all the displaced families,” said Javier Zuñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International.

“By pushing families out in the street for a third time since last year’s earthquake, Haitian authorities have failed to protect their rights to an adequate standard of living and basic shelter,” he added.

Zuñiga said the evictions began last week in the area around Sylvio Cator Stadium in the capital’s centre, apparently ahead of a major sporting event.

He said city authorities reportedly paid families US$250 to move but did not provide adequate notice of the evictions or provide alternative housing.

Zuñiga said about 7,000 people had sought shelter inside Sylvio Cator stadium in the immediate aftermath of last year’s earthquake. They were forcibly evicted from the stadium itself in April 2010, when several hundred families formed a makeshift camp nearby.

The site is among the six “most visible” displacement camps that Haitian President Michel Martelly has slated for closure.

Amnesty International said Port-au-Prince Mayor, Jean Yves Jason, reportedly visited the camp on July 12 to inform its residents they would have to leave within three days or face forcible eviction.

“This was apparently the first time families were notified of the plans, and no court order was shown,” the statement said.

“The mayor returned with police on July 15 to begin forcibly evicting the families,” it added.

Amnesty International said city authorities had designated a small plot of marshland two kilometres away to relocate the displaced people.

However, it said there has only been space to accommodate about 100 families there, adding that “the site has no facilities whatsoever.”

As Haiti is currently in the midst of its rain and hurricane season, Amnesty International said families would face further difficulties in constructing shelters on the site.

Across the impoverished, French-speaking Caribbean country, thousands of makeshift camps sprang up overnight after the earthquake with a magnitude of 7.1 left hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

Amnesty International said more than 600,000 people were still living in “precarious conditions in the camps,” citing a March 2011 report from the International Organization for Migration that states that up to 160,000 people are “at risk of forced eviction.”

“Eighteen months after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, living conditions in most of the camps are still dire,” Zuñiga said, adding “for Haiti’s reconstruction efforts to be successful, much more must be done to speed up the construction of shelters and to restore basic services and dignity to those still living in the camps”.

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