Thousands of Haitians have been forcibly evicted from tent camps in the nation’s capital, according to a survey by the international aid organization Oxfam on Monday. Three years after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the Caribbean nation of 10 million, 357,000 Haitians are still living in 496 makeshift encampments scattered around the capital. The report, titled “Salt in the Wound: The urgent need to prevent forced evictions from camps in Haiti,” says that 86 percent of camp dwellers lack the financial resources to find alternate housing.
Since July 2010, an estimated 60,000 Haitians have been forcibly displaced from the camps, mostly by landowners who have grown impatient with the slow pace of relocation and are eager to reclaim their property. The report finds that government workers are often complicit in the process and that women, particularly those who are heads of their household, are overwhelmingly the victims of forced evictions.
While Oxfam applauds the government’s effort to relocate some displaced Haitians through the rental-subsidy program, known as 16/6, Haiti Country Director Andrew Pugh called on President Michel Martelly’s administration to do more to protect displaced peoples from violence, intimidation and unlawful threats to evict families. The report was rebuffed by an advisor to Martelly, Salim Saccar, who said, “The government is not engaged in a policy of eviction, but it has, through the 16/6 project, taken measures to safely and permanently relocate the people living in the camps to safe and permanent shelters.”
The Oxfam report was published the same day that President Martelly gave his “State of the Country” speech in North Miami Beach, Florida in an effort to rally support among the diaspora. The president has been the target of protests in Haiti for leaving without addressing the housing crisis, choosing instead to embark on an international tour with stops in Japan, Cuba and Europe.