LONDON (AlertNet) - Landowners have threatened to evict nearly one in four Haitians still living in camps for people made homeless by last year's earthquake, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday.
As the rainy season starts, some 166,000 people, are faced with imminent eviction, according to IOM, which has a lead role in managing camps for the displaced in the Caribbean island nation, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.
"It's a very tricky situation and potentially it has great implications for vulnerable people at a time of cholera and the forthcoming hurricane season. There's a much better way to do this," said IOM spokesman in Port-au-Prince Leonard Doyle.
The number of uprooted people living in camps has fallen to 680,000 from an estimated high of 1.5 million in July.
But IOM said across the earthquake-affected area, the rising rate of evictions was outpacing the ability of the Haitian government and humanitarian groups to provide housing.
"Some of the evictions take place in an orderly fashion in which landowners give notice," said IOM's Doyle. "But in some cases, it's done by force in the dead of night, increasingly so, without any recourse and without any opportunity for the people to find a safe place to go," he told AlertNet by phone.
Doyle said in some cases, organisations such as IOM were able to negotiate on behalf of camp residents to try to extend how long they were able to stay in the tent and tarpaulin camps.
However, some residents have had to leave, returning to houses that are unsafe or in danger of getting washed away in the rainy season.
"The truth is evictions take place - and it's hard to find out what happened, people are gone, scattered to the wind. You don't know where they are," Doyle said. "I's not like the evictors are taking records and accompanying them to their new housing."
Up to 67 percent of the displaced population threatened with eviction is living on private land, 8 percent on public land and the rest on land for which there is no data about its ownership.
Doyle said 450 families living in the parking lot of the national Silvio Cator soccer stadium had been threatened with eviction. Homes had been found for 50 families but the rest were at risk of being left homeless.
"It's an important issue because the stadium is needed for the coming (2014) World Cup. Haiti's not playing but it's going to host some of the games," Doyle said.
"In order to do that they've got to have the stadium to a certain standard. To get the stadium to a certain standard you have to get rid of the families - where are those families going to go?"
The devastating earthquake, which struck on Jan 12 last year, killed more than 300,000 people and was followed by a cholera epidemic, a passing hurricane that unleashed floods and political unrest triggered by chaotic Nov. 28 presidential and legislative elections.
After months of political limbo, preliminary results released on Monday showed that Michel Martelly, a shaven-headed singer and political outsider, had won a deciding presidential run-off in a landslide victory that tapped into deep popular desire for change in Haiti.
"Everyone is optimistic that a change in leadership will provide leadership. The indications are good but we need to see the results," Doyle said.
Resettlement of the homeless is tangled in complex land tenure issues, exacerbated by the earthquake which destroyed much of what little documentation there was.
"People need to sit down and have a conversation and recognise there's over half a million people in desperate need of a place. The international community is ready to do the housing," Doyle said.
"Landowners need to be compensated and land needs to be made available. It's a conversation that needs to take place and isn't taking place. Everything is stuck until this problem is resolved."