Authorities must act to protect the human rights of displaced Haitians and stop these acts of violence
NEW YORK, NY – American Jewish World Service (AJWS) reports that a fire in a Haitian displacement camp over the weekend is likely the latest in a string of deliberate attacks on survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The fire underscores the need for pressure to be placed on the Haitian government to protect the rights of its citizens and for a renewed international commitment to the region, especially in creating permanent housing for the 170,000 Haitians still residing in displacement camps.
“Saturday’s fire brings to light the horrendous human rights violations being perpetrated against earthquake survivors across Haiti,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. “Between 2010 and 2013, more than 16,104 families were forcibly evicted from 175 camps in Haiti, leaving them homeless and vulnerable once again. Unfortunately, the Haitian government has failed to address this problem by not acting deliberately to halt the violence against these people. Perpetrators must be held accountable and laws protecting the rights of displaced people must be upheld.”
The Kan Pèp Pwogresis (The Progressive People’s Camp), a tent camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti was burned to the ground on Saturday, killing at least three people, including two children. According to reports from Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (Fos Refleksyon ak Aksyon sou Koze Kay, FRAKKA) and Defenders of the Oppressed (Défenseurs des Opprimées/Opprimés, DOP), two Haitian organizations supported by AJWS, the leading Jewish international development and human rights organization, this was a deliberate act meant to force out the 108 families residing in the camp.
“From the information available to us, it seems clear that Saturday’s act was criminal and we denounce it,” said Jackson Doliscar, community organizer for FRAKKA. “We demand that the authorities take public action to locate the criminals responsible and bring them to justice and compensate the victims. This is a terrible and ironic way to mark the fourth anniversary of the event that caused hundreds of thousands of Haitians to live underneath the very tents that have now been burned.”
Doliscar said the owner of the land where Kan Pèp Pwogresis is located previously threatened to evict the camp’s residents. Additionally, he stated that both the intensity and the speed at which the fire consumed the camp, combined with the previous threats, are indicative of this being an act of arson. According to Doliscar, these types of fires, which occurred previously in other camps, are often the work of landowners or their representatives who are trying to forcibly reclaim their land.
Other camps that experienced similar fires or violent forced evictions over the past two years include Camp Christophe, Grace Village in Carrefour, Camp Mozaik, Camp Delmas 33, Camp Gaston Margon, Camp Peliko, Mountain Saint Joseph camp, Camp Vilambetha and Camp Immaculate.
DOP also denounced the act of burning the tent camps and forcibly evicting its residents.
“It is unacceptable that, in the four years since the earthquake, the rights of internally displaced Haitians are not being upheld,” said Attorney Patrice Florvilus, executive director of DOP, who has been routinely harassed and threatened for standing up for the rights of displaced Haitians. “To the contrary, instead of creating a plan for permanent housing that would provide the earthquake survivors with adequate living spaces, those in power are violating the law by allowing these acts of violence, which result in the forceful removal of earthquake survivors from their homes in displacement camps without any regard for their life or dignity. This must stop. These displaced Haitians have suffered enough.”
Messinger of AJWS added that the international community is also failing in its commitment to construct permanent housing for those still displaced by the earthquake. Based on a recent report by the United States Government Accountability Office, the U.S. Agency for International Development expects to complete only 2,649 of the 15,000 houses it originally planned to construct in Haiti after the earthquake, a reduction of 80 percent.
“Instead of focusing money on creating permanent housing, money was spent elsewhere, leaving thousands of people in the cold, susceptible to violence, and with little or no access to potable water or basic health services,” Messinger said. “The creation of permanent housing must be a top priority of the U.S. and Haitian governments in order to remove the conflict driving these violent evictions, before more lives are lost. AJWS stands with our Haitian grantees and the Haitian people as they recover from this terrible fire and continue to rebuild.”
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David L. Marcus