Haiti: cops evict earthquake survivors

On the evening of April 9 agents of the National Police of Haiti (PNH) began removing some 1,300 families—about 7,335 people—from Port-au-Prince’s Sylvio Cator soccer stadium, where they had camped out since the Jan. 12 earthquake destroyed much of the city, killing as many as 230,000 people and leaving some 1.3 million without homes. “Soccer has to be brought back to life,” said stadium director Rolny Saint-Louis. “There are players waiting to be able to play and feed their families from their work.” The stadium’s managers say the Taiwanese are planning to repair the bleachers and replace the artificial turf, which the earthquake survivors had reportedly damaged.

“When they throw us out without telling us where we’re going to sleep in the evening, without offering us an alternative, it’s irresponsible, because families are going to end up in the street,” one camp resident told the local station Radio Métropole. “Nothing’s been prepared to receive them in another center,” said a man wandering in the stadium. “The government’s not serious.” The stadium managers offered each family a tent to replace the improvised shelters the police agents had smashed during the removal, but one resident said the tents were too small: only two or three people could fit in each tent, while many of the families were quite large.

Heavy rains fell on the city in the evening as some of the stadium’s former residents were still looking for a new place to camp out. (Radio Métropole, Haiti, April 10; Haiti Press Network April 9; Asia One News, Singapore, April 12 from AFP)

There are about 400 encampments in the metropolitan area, many on private property. Some 11,000 people are living on the St-Louis Gonzague prep school’s field. The school failed to reopen on April 5, the date the government set for a partial resumption of classes. Other homeless people are camped out at a golf course in Pétionville, an upscale suburb southeast of Port-au-Prince; the authorities say the encampment is overcrowded and prone to mudslides and flooding.

The Haitian government and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) have a plan to move people out of many of these camps as the rainy season starts. In contrast to the forced removal at the Sylvio Cator stadium, the authorities claim that people in other encampments will voluntarily relocate to two new sites the government has prepared. One is at Corail–Cesselesse, 20 km north of the city; the other isn’t ready yet.

People are understandably reluctant to leave the existing camps, where residents have often organized themselves and some aid groups have set up facilities. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has established a field hospital at the St-Louis Gonzague field and has constructed latrines. “We’ll see what the government’s going to do, and then we’ll react,” Salha Issoufou, MSF’s mission head in Haiti, said about the plan to move the homeless people. “It’s not in our nature to help displacements of population.” (L’Express. France, Apr. 8 from correspondent; Asia One News, Singapore, April 12 from AFP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 11

See our last post on Haiti.