Nearly three years after the earthquake of January 2010, durable housing solutions remain nonexistent while tens of thousands remain at risk of forced evictions. According to the International Organization for Migration, there are currently 369,000 individuals residing in 541 official IDP camps throughout Haiti. Yet over 20 percent of the remaining individuals are in constant risk of eviction. Fortunately, camp residents are organizing to fight back. Public Radio International’s The World reports:
Enter Patrice Florvilus. After the earthquake, the attorney formed an organization that represents residents of tent camps who’ve been threatened with eviction.
“Our strategy is to stop evictions by making landlords follow the law, which can mean a lengthy legal process. And that’s what the landlord wants to avoid,” Florvilus said.
It doesn’t always work, but a legal defeat can sometimes turn into a de facto victory. In one case, the mayor of Delmas ordered families off government land. A court upheld the eviction order. But then the mayor backed off — locals say because of organized opposition.
But activists have faced many difficulties, including intimidation and jail time. Meena Jagannath reported last month on the case of David Oxygène, an activist who was imprisoned for over two months. He was arrested during one of his group’s weekly protests against the Martelly government calling for improved social policies, including adequate housing.
More recently, a protest organized by camp residents to protest the lack of adequate housing was cancelled following threatening phone calls and other forms of intimidation. GlobalPost reports:
She [Alexis Erkart of Other Worlds] says fear and fatigue run high in the camps, and residents are consistently faced with the prospect of forced evictions, but have nowhere else to go.
Erkert told GlobalPost yesterday via email that yesterday’s protest was being organized by a number of camps, but that “a number of camp residents reported receiving threatening phone calls and thugs coming to the camps telling people not to participate in the protest. There was enough fear that they decided to hold off.”
“More and more camps are evicted with no housing plan in place, without viable options for the future,” said Erkert. “They have no access to the government, and limited access to the media. It makes me deeply sad that today they were stripped of one of the only means available to them to make their voices heard.”
The most recent report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that 61,000 have been evicted from camps already, with over 78,000 additional camp residents facing the threat of eviction. In addition, some 78,600 individuals were “resettled” with some support from the IOM after facing eviction, though it is likely that in many of these cases the camp residents felt like they had no other option but to face eviction or accept a small sum and fend for themselves.
On the other hand, the government and international communities’ flagship resettlement program, 16/6 has had only a minor impact on the camp population. A press release marking the one-year anniversary of the program says that some 44,000 people have been resettled through the program, significantly less than has been forcibly evicted. Also, only 60 of the remaining IDP sites are planned to benefit from return programs similar to 16/6. If carried out these would only benefit around 27,000 of the remaining 369,000 IDPs. The 16/6 plan also calls for the rehabilitation of neighborhoods and the construction of new housing, yet so far these aspects have lagged far behind the removal of residents from camps. As of April, only 5,000 news houses had been built throughout the country by NGOs and international partners.
Haiti Grassroots Watch recently reported on the failure of the large housing expo that was meant to be a jumping off point for the provision of new housing:
The project consisted of an exposition of some 60 model homes for post-earthquake reconstruction, and the building of an “Exemplar Community” for 150 families, planned for former farmland outside the capital Port-au-Prince.
Altogether, the BBBC cost over two million dollars in “reconstruction” funding. Most went for the Expo that was barely visited and whose models homes today sit empty, as well as for the Exemplar Community – a community that was never built.
But nobody carried the projects forward, nor does anyone seem to be bothered with them today. Rather than housing earthquake victim families as the government had promised, 14 months later, the 67 model homes are empty.
Some large public plazas have been cleared, the area around the National Palace is now empty and the sprawling tent camp near the airport has all but disappeared, but while the problem may have receded from public sight, the displacement crisis and lack of adequate housing is no less an issue. Meanwhile, those organizing to fight for their right to housing are facing an increasingly hostile environment.
For more information on the lack of adequate housing and forced evictions, visit the Under Tents website.