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Kicked Out: Haiti’s Government Accused Of Forcibly Evicting People From Tent Cities
April 24, 2013
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After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, 1.5 million people were forced into camps living in makeshift tents.

That number has dropped dramatically over the past three years, but it's not because all those people have found a home.

According to Amnesty International, it's because many people are being kicked out of the camps and end up being "driven deeper into poverty."

As it stands, about 320,000 people still live in camps. But Amnesty says the Haitian government isn't protecting them.

In fact, it says the government has allowed tens of thousands of people to be evicted from public spaces and private properties.

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In a new report, Amnesty says it has documented dozens of cases where families have been evicted by mayors, police, or private landowners who want their land back.

Residents have accused officials of showing up, often without notice, and tearing down their tarps and evicting them.

As Reuters reports, Amnesty also quotes a former camp resident in its report - Suze Mondesir who was evicted from a camp in Port-au-Prince a few months ago.

"Around 10 a.m. a group of police officers accompanied by men armed with machetes and knives arrived at the camp," she said. "They insulted us and began to demolish our tents. The men pushed us around and the police waved their guns at us to prevent us from reacting."

forced-evictions-amnesty-international-says-earthquake-survivors-in-Haiti-are-being-kicked-out-of-camps-feature3.jpg Amnesty says it wrote to Haiti's President Michel Martelly (left), the prime minister, and the mayors of two cities asking for a meeting. But it says the requests were declined or ignored.

Haiti's Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told The Associated Press "We don't believe in forced evictions. There are some private owners that do it, but the government itself does not condone that."

The government has said resettling camp dwellers is a priority.

It has drafted Haiti's first ever housing policy, set up a rental subsidy program for people left homeless by the quake and, according to Lamothe, has "relocated over 1.2 million people and has respected their lives and in a peaceful matter."

Right now, Amnesty says one in four people are in danger of being kicked out of the camps by private landowners or the authorities.

"People who most suffered from the earthquake were those living in extreme poverty. They have been living in camps with appalling living conditions," said Javier Zúñiga, an Amnesty special advisor.

"And, as if this were not enough, they are threatened with forced evictions and, eventually, made homeless again. Each time it becomes increasingly difficult for them to find a new location and the means to rebuild their lives," he told The Miami Herald.

"This is a story of ongoing human rights violations creating deep suffering," Zúñiga said.

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Amnesty also said that in many camps, people don't have access to clean drinking water or enough toilets.

The camps are overcrowded, poorly lit at night, and have very few police on duty - all of which makes women and girls vulnerable to sexual violence, including rape.

In other cases, there are women who are forced to exchange sex for food so they can survive and feed their families.

The report is based on three field visits by Amnesty to Haiti in 2011 and 2012, and is part of its Demand Dignity campaign.

Since July 2010, nearly 62,000 people have been evicted from the camps, including nearly 1,000 families so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Of course, some of these camps have been on private land for more than three years, and the owners want their land back.

Here's a report by Al Jazeera from a few years ago that shows how complicated all of this is.

As one UN official says in the story, "On the one hand, you have schools that need to open. On the other hand, displaced people have rights too, and you can't just throw them off the land unless you have an alternative."

There is a "need for action before it gets worse," the official said.

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UN Facing Backlash For Refusing To Compensate Victims Of Haiti's Cholera Outbreak

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