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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Negotiating" an Eviction

Yesterday we had a long meeting about how to realistically protect IDPs in the face of imminent eviction. The Housing Rights Team was lucky enough to get some concrete numbers and a much better sense of the scale of the problem. We heard about two communes with a total of 327 camps, of which 85 are directly at risk of eviction. The at-risk camps have a population of up to 20,000 inhabitants. This only covers two communes in Port-au-Prince (PAP), but begins to give a sense of the scale of the problem. 

Affected communities can have anywhere from a single day to three months notice of a pending eviction. The methods of 'eviction' range from monetary coercion for leaving the land to the violent ejection of families and the burning of their shelters. Currently, up to a third of the IDP population is living in large camps. As smaller camps are closed more and more IDPs move to these larger camps. Without a comprehensive relocation strategy these large camps have the potential to become permanent unofficial settlements. 

Some international organizations (IO) are trying to mediate negotiations between landlords and IDPs, but negotiations don't always occur. When they do, the goal of these 'negotiations' is really to delay the eviction to give IDPs and IOs/NGOs time to find other housing solutions. The problem is, there are few, if any, other solutions. 

While there's a need to balance the rights of landlords to their private property, there's also a need to recognize and protect the rights of IDPs to adequate housing. Humanitarian organizations are gradually phasing out of the camps and services like water and sanitation provision will not last forever. The question is, what is going to happen to the IDPs when the IOs and NGOs leave

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