Victimized a Second Time: State-Sanctioned Forced Evictions of Haiti’s Displaced Earthquake Survivors
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But the Martelly administration hasn’t always waited for the displaced quake survivors to move willingly. Earlier this month the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the University of San Francisco School of Law noted that “a survey conducted in six displacement camps scheduled to close under his 100-day plan shows that the government’s closure of camps so far has resulted in unlawful, violent evictions of displaced communities in direct contrast to the durable solutions touted under the plan.” In a report on the 100-day plan, the groups also described how “even before the plan began to be implemented, the government moved to close two camps: Stade Sylvio Cator residents ‘were unlawfully evicted by the Mayor of Port-au-Prince and Haitian National Police without a court order, as required under Haitian law,’” with police destroying the camp residents’ tents and meager belongings. Residents of Place St. Pierre, a camp on public land, were also partially evicted “without the protections or benefits promised in the Martelly plan.”
Compensation for the displaced has been inadequate, the report found, describing how not all residents were given government money as incentive to leave the Stade Sylvio Cator camp. Those who were compensated received only $250 USD. “All of the residents surveyed said that the money was not enough for them to relocate or pay rent. Nor was the money enough to build a basic 12x10 foot shack with a concrete floor, plywood walls and corrugated metal roof, which costs an average of US$300 – leaving many residents without shelter.” The twice-displaced Stade Sylvio Cator residents reported that conditions at their new camp were even worse than before, in terms of security, lighting, sanitation, water and food (continuing to leave women and children at particular risk for violent crime). As journalist Justin Podur notes, the port-a-johns at the new camp are positioned on a highway median.
These are not the only camp residents to have felt the impact of state-sanctioned violence and coercion. As one of us, Bill Quigley of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Jocelyn Brooks of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Haiti, reported in June, “Marie, a 25 year old pregnant mother, was injured by government agents when they slammed a wooden door into her stomach during an early morning invasion of an earthquake displacement camp in Port au Prince.” Camp residents told Quigley and Brooks that Marie “had been assaulted by men who entered their camp at the order of the Mayor of the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas.” When a BAI attorney questioned the leader of the thugs who assaulted Marie, however, he said “the National Palace” had dispatched them to the camp.
The Martelly administration has also stood idly by as thousands of other displaced residents have been evicted from camps on private land. In some cases, the private landowners – who often have only dubious claims to land ownership – have hired thugs to brutalize camp residents. Haitian police officers and UN troops, from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), have often aided in the forced evictions.
Actor/activist Danny Glover, along with the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Mark Weisbrot, and Nicole Lee of TransAfrica Forum, intervened to temporarily halt a forced eviction in August. The camp was the Barbancourt 17 camp, home to over 40 families. The landlord, according to Nicole Lee, referred to the displaced residents as “disposable people.” MINUSTAH troops stood by, uneasily watching the verbal confrontation between Danny Glover and the apparent land owner. While the Americans’ intervention bought the residents some time, Justin Podur reported that “The camp residents were evicted suddenly on Wednesday [September 28], with no plan or provision made for where they were supposed to go. Some have been taken in by family and friends, while some are living in cars, others in alleys and streets.”
While the motivations of a private landowner – no matter how unsavory, are at least easier to understand – it is incomprehensible why the Haitian government is throwing the survivors of Haiti’s greatest calamity into the street. Such actions directly contradict the pro-Martelly propaganda that now adorns numerous billboards in Port-au-Prince: that Martelly stands with the people.