BOGOTA (AlertNet) - Tens of thousands of homeless earthquake survivors living in camps sprawled across the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince are at risk of eviction, Oxfam said on Monday.
Around 360,000 Haitians who lost their homes in the earthquake three years ago still live in tent and tarpaulin camps in and around Port-au-Prince.
Some 78,000 living in camps on property owned by schools and churches and on private land face eviction by landowners and local authorities wanting to reclaim their land.
“Thousands of people are in a very precarious situation and at risk of finding themselves on the street with nowhere to go. This government should ensure the security and protection of displaced people against violence, intimidation and unlawful threats to evict families,” Andrew Pugh, Oxfam's country director in Haiti, said in a statement.
After the January 2010 earthquake, many landowners allowed homeless families to occupy their property. However, this good will is wearing thin.
“Displaced Haitians now face persistent and worsening threats of, often violent, eviction from landowners eager to get their land back,” Oxfam’s report said.
NOWHERE TO GO
Most families in the camps want to leave, but many are too poor and have nowhere to go, according to an Oxfam survey of 3,600 camp residents in Port-au-Prince.
Those still in the camps are often elderly, sick and jobless, and cannot pay rent or repair their quake-damaged homes.
The survey found that 60 percent of camp dwellers ate one meal a day - or not even that.
“I'm stressed and living in fear because I don't know when the landowner will come back and demand that we leave the premises. I don't know where to go. I'm prepared to face the landowner's reaction, whatever the cost,” a 29-year-old camp dweller identified as Marjorie is quoted as saying in the report.
RESETTLING CAMP DWELLERS
Aid agencies and the Haitian government agree that resettling camp dwellers is a priority.
But resettlement has been hampered by political uncertainty, weak coordination among international aid groups and a cholera epidemic, as well as longstanding land tenure problems.
There are schemes by the Haitian government and international aid agencies to relocate families from tent camps on public and state-owned land into safe and repaired homes.
For example, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) offers families in tent settlements a one-off payment of $500 - the equivalent of a year’s rent - if they can find a new, safe place to live.
Such initiatives have helped reduce the number of people in tent cities by 77 percent from a peak of 1.5 million following the earthquake.
“This reduction in the number of people living in camps is also partly due to forced evictions,” Oxfam said in its report.
From July 2010 to August this year, nearly 61,000 people were thrown off camp settlements, according to IOM.
Oxfam is urging the Haitian government to step up efforts to rehouse the remaining camp dwellers, especially those who face the constant threat of eviction.
“Up until now there has been no systematic effort to address forced evictions, in terms of either a coordinated legal response to the human rights violations or a political response in the form of a comprehensive return and relocation policy,” the Oxfam report said.