Haiti's Quake Homeless Getting Kicked Out

It's been more than six months since the massive earthquake in Haiti. Conditions are still abysmal in cities and towns that remain full of rubble and crumpled buildings. A quarter of a million people died, and more than 1.5 million are still homeless. Some of the displaced residents living in makeshift camps are now being threatened with eviction. Host Liane Hansen talks to Leonard Doyle, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration in Haiti, about the problems with relocating and resettling the masses of homeless people.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

It's been more than six months since the massive earthquake in Haiti. Conditions are still abysmal in cities and towns that remain full of rubble and crumpled buildings. A quarter of a million people died and more than 1.5 million are still homeless. Some of the displaced residents, living in makeshift camps, are now being threatened with eviction.

Leonard Doyle is the Haiti spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration. He's in Port-au-Prince and joins us by phone. Welcome to the program.

Mr. LEONARD DOYLE (Spokesman, International Organization for Migration): Hello.

HANSEN: And we're speaking to you in a tent, are we not?

Mr. DOYLE: Yeah, well, I live in a tent. That's what I do.

HANSEN: Now tell us about the evictions. Who is evicting whom and why?

Mr. DOYLE: Well, the evictions are (unintelligible). Essentially, you've got people who've been living on private land and the landlords - by and large -have been very welcoming; many of these landlords have lost income as result. Some of the landlords, you know, are broke. So on the whole, the situation has been relatively calm and the emergency has enabled people to have the right to stay on land, and that's pretty much been respected.

But there's also undoubtedly cases of eviction. Some of them are done appropriately. In some cases, we, the international organization have become directly involved in trying to negotiate better outcomes. In some cases, it happens in the dead of night and people wielding machetes come rolling in. And the next morning, the IDPs - the displaced people are gone.

HANSEN: Have there been other violent attempts to evict some of these displaced people?

Mr. DOYLE: Indeed. I mean we've had about 50 reports of either reports of evictions or actual evictions. They don't necessarily all involve violence but there can be threats of violence and that's the way it is.

I mean, on the other hand, it is certainly worth stressing that many of the landlords, you know, are at the pin of the collar and being hospitable to displaced people for six months now. And when I say landlord, it may be simply somebody who's got a patch of front garden who has accepted people in off the road.

HANSEN: And a lot of the people who are living in the camps don't have a home to go back to.

Mr. DOYLE: Very much so. You know, they're waiting to return to their communities, if they can return to their communities. But then, remember that many of these communities were appalling slums, where you could never get the same amount of people back in there and stand over it as a safe place to live. So they have to find another solution. There's only so many people who can really move back to their communities.

But it's happening at a very difficult time. The weather - summer is a particularly difficult time in Haiti. The rains come. The winds come. Tents get blown away. The potential is there for a hurricane.

HANSEN: I just wonder, I mean, given the situation you're in right now, I mean you're in a tent down there. You're dealing with displaced people. You've outlined the problems that are involved in trying to get people into a home of some sort. Do you have any idea of what might work?

Mr. DOYLE: Well, this is a very, very difficult situation and you can be sure that there will be lots of finger pointing. And there already is lots of finger pointing by armchair observers around the place. But it is intractable problem and the reason it's intractable is because Haiti has a very, very difficult history.

So you're dealing with a traumatized country, which it was already, trying to get itself up from its knees when this earthquake happened. Now you have that desperately poor society, displaced in camps, and at the same time the efforts to rebuild the country would require vast international aid. Not all of that promised aid has come.

And this is a difficult situation, which could readily become worse because the climatic conditions here are extremely trying. It's slap in the middle of the hurricane belt. It's on two fault lines for earthquakes. And on top of that you've got a population which is incredibly resilient, incredibly patient, but tragically has been left in a state of virtual un-empowerment, due to the many of years of dictatorship which was facilitated in large part by powerful neighbors.

HANSEN: Leonard Doyle is the Haiti spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration. We reached him in his tent in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Thank you so much.

Mr. DOYLE: You're welcome.

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