June 12, 2011
Letter to Congress Opposing Tent Camp Evictions in Haiti

Over 16 US-based human rights organizations comprising the Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) are circulating a letter to members of Congress protesting the forced eviction of homeless persons from tent camps in Haiti.

June 10, 2011

Dear Member of Congress,

We are deeply disturbed by the recent camp evictions that have taken place under the guidance of Delmas Mayor Wilson Jeudy in public spaces in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. On Monday, May 23, 2011, camp members from Kafou Ayopò near the national airport were evicted. Again on Wednesday, May 25, hundreds more from two additional camps in the neighborhoods of Delmas 3 and 5, were forcibly removed, their belongings destroyed and many beaten by the police. These most recent evictions come on the heels of months of pressure by private landowners that resulted in the aggressive displacement and destruction of property of thousands of camp residents throughout Port-au-Prince, as well as the documented death of camp resident Thelucia Ciffren at the hands of private security forces on May 12, 2011. With the rainy season already begun, evictions come at an extremely tenuous time for Haiti, as evidenced by the 17 storm-related deaths that took place this week. Therefore, we thank you for your continued commitment to addressing Haiti’s ongoing humanitarian crisis and ask that you voice your concern for this ill-timed and life-threatening treatment of Haiti’s most vulnerable communities.


These forced, often violent evictions demonstrate a disregard for the basic human rights and dignity of the families that were impacted by the devastating 2010 earthquake, and are in direct contravention to internationally recognized guiding principles on the treatment and protection of internally displaced persons. While the UN Humanitarian Coordinator and several U.S. Members of Congress have appealed to Haitian national authorities to instruct state actors to protect camp dwellers from further violent or inhumane actions, forced evictions – particularly at the hands of private security forces – still loom. Please express your concern to both Secretary Hillary Clinton and Special Coordinator Thomas Adams, and ask each of them to condemn these recent forced evictions and promote a new participatory relocation plan that adheres to international human rights standards and is created through direct consultation with Haitian camp leaders and grassroots movements.


During President Michel Martelly’s pre-inaugural trip to the United States, he declared that one of his four main priorities was to help relocate people from internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. The UN Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster has stated that the Martelly Government’s strategy on “Return and Relocation” for camp members will be piloted through 6 camps during his first 100 days in office. Our organizations and our Haitian partners in the field strongly believe that any relocation plan must be done in direct consultation with Haitian grassroots movements and camp leadership, offer safe, accessible living alternatives and incorporate longer-term housing strategies.


The Haitian Platform of Community Organizations of the Port-au-Prince Metropolitan Zone (COZPAM) gives the following perspective on the evictions. “It is not a problem for the state to recuperate public spaces, but it has to be done in the right conditions. This means, they have to above all identify where they’re going to put people while they define and apply a good housing policy for the most vulnerable people in society.” – COZPAM President, Jean Robert Pierre.


The International Organization for Migration recognizes that over 680,000 Haitians are still living in recognized camps, surviving in precarious conditions and under constant threat of similar egregiousexpulsions. The United States has committed to work with the Haitian government to implement a sound shelter plan that respects the human rights and dignity of all persons. In addition, the U.S. has allocated significant funds towards housing development, based on the belief that the Haitians who lost their homes shouldn’t be abandoned and should be provided with decent, safe shelter. Therefore, we are calling on your office to speak out against these recent evictions, encourage a participatory relocation planning process and to help uphold these principles to which we as a nation have committed.


As the Inter American Commission on Human Rights stated while issuing precautionary measures last year, the government of Haiti should, at a minimum, “offer those who have been illegally expelled from the camps a transfer to places that have minimum health and security conditions, and then transfer them if they so agree.” Furthermore, any housing or relocation plan must incorporate the voices and needs of local communities in order to identify the most effective, safe and participatory way to relocate camp members. In addition, relocation and/or housing plans must address the underlying structural issues with respect to housing (e.g. land distribution, regulation and control policies, etc.) so that structural and sustainable solutions are provided. Any relocation plans for Haiti’s internally displaced must include access to secure, affordable housing with plans incorporated for transitioning members to more long-term housing solutions.


We would be happy to meet with you or a member of your staff in the days to come to discuss this urgent matter. Thank you so much for considering our request.


Sincerely,


ActionAid USA, American Jewish World Service, Center for Constitutional Rights, Diaspora Community Services, Foundry United Methodist Church, Gender Action, Grassroots International, Haiti Support Group, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Jesuit Refugee Service USA, Oxfam America, Transafrica Forum, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Committee on Relief, University of Miami Human Rights Clinic