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Thousands in New Tent Camps At Haiti – Dominican Republic Border

Families Sleeping Under Bedsheets & Cardboard With No Food or Water

By Etant Dupain, September 16, 2015

Anse-à-Pitres, Haiti: In the last week alone, the Dominican Republic has deported almost 1,000 people at three points on the border with Haiti. One month after the deportations began again, the crisis continues to become more urgent. More than 87,000 people fled the Dominican Republic due to the threats of deportation between June 17 and the end of August. The number of people formally deported along with those who have voluntarily left in fear of being forcibly removed grows daily. The deportations of those rendered stateless by the Dominican government has already created a humanitarian crisis in Anse-à-Pitres and Malpasse, a crisis that is increasing in size each day as camps of deported families spring up throughout the area.

In Anse-à-Pitres the situation is very serious; for more than two months, several thousand people have been living there in two large camps. People are living under pieces of cardboard and bed sheets that do nothing to stop the rain. In the middle of a desert, these families have been expelled by the Dominican government and abandoned by the Haitian government. The crisis between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is having a major impact on Haitian society at a time when Haiti has not yet recovered from the humanitarian crisis that followed the earthquake on January 12, 2010. The newly deported population is adding insult to injury considering that 60,000 people are still living in officially recognized camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) and several hundred thousand others remain abandoned in unofficial camps and in slums that have grown dramatically over the last five years.

Up until now, the Haitian government has not demonstrated any competence to deliver a real response to the crisis. From day one, the Haitian authorities have not counted the people entering the country, making it very difficult to get official information. No adequate recording of the number of people crossing the border creates several other problems as well. For those who had their citizenship revoked by the Dominican government, they are now stateless and there is no way to identify them. The Haitian government said that Haiti would not accept people who were stripped of their citizenship but many have already been deported to Haiti and there has yet to be any follow up on these cases.

There are also groups of citizens who have taken the initiative to help by offering emergency assistance to those who have been deported to Haiti during this urgent time, but this work has been complicated because they don’t have access to basic information such as how many vulnerable people are at the border. More importantly, there are concerns about how to prevent the new camps of displaced people from becoming long-term settlements that attract other vulnerable families seeking support. One clear example is a group called SOS Rapatriye created by a group of friends who began collecting necessities and food to help those who have been deported. This group has faced major challenges in their work because the government doesn’t want the deliver of assistance at the site to encourage the establishment of a large camp, despite the fact that where the families are now is in the middle of Anse-à-Pitres, more than five hours from Haiti’s capital. Anse-à-Pitre is already facing food shortages, massive unemployment and cannot provide any kind of health care services to those who are arriving daily. When SOS Rapatriye began to seek tents for the families, the Minister of Interior discouraged them from distributing tents under the premise that it would attract more people. The Ministry of the Interior has played a role in creating this problem by not registering people as they enter, making it possible for people unaffected by the deportations to come into the settlement to seek aid.

In Fond Parisien, the central point on the border for deportations, there are several dozen families that are living in the community school at Fon Baya. These families were the first beneficiaries of donations that SOS Rapatriye collected, including mattresses to sleep on where before people had been sleeping directly on the cement floor. Several elderly people and five pregnant women were the first to receive mattresses. Today the school has reopened and the families had to leave the building. They are now living in tents they received as a donation from a local church, however it is a very hot area and it isn’t possible to remain inside the tents during the day.

The deportations are continuing and we can expect more deportations in the coming days because as of September 16, the Haitian government has adopted a measure to stop the overland imports of more than twenty key products from the Dominican Republic. It hasn’t even been three days since the announcement of this measure, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has already registered 480 people who crossed the border from the Dominican Republic and are in a new camp in Fond Janet.

The treatment of Haitians in the Dominican Republic has become worse since the period where people could enter into the legalization process and register has ended. Of the 288,000 people who registered for the process, 100,000 cards are already available for distribution and 85,000 have already taken their cards. More than 75,000 people didn’t qualify they didn’t meet the criteria, according to the Dominican Minister of the Interior.

At this moment, the Dominican Republic continues the deportations but slowly and quietly, so as to avoid attracting more media attention that could create problems for the tourism industry – a key sector that is at risk of suffering as a result of this crisis. The Dominican Republic is benefiting from the refugee crisis in Europe as it dominates the media, and deportations are continuing just as the tensions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic become more serious. Without any massive deportations, it will take the Dominican Republic more than a year to deport several hundred thousand stateless Dominicans along with Haitians who don’t have legal residence, guaranteeing the prolongation of this crisis.


Failure to Aid Haiti’s Earthquake Homeless

Nearly 5 years after the quake, IDPs continue to be evicted from camps despite no sustainable housing solutions or meaningful construction reforms 

By: Etant Dupain, Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye

Port-au-Prince, Haiti: More than 20,000 victims of the earthquake on January 12, 2010 are living under the threat of forced evictions from the camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) where they live, according to the August 14 bulletin from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). As we are approaching the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, the situation for thousands of victims has never been ameliorated. Of the 172 camps that are officially recognized that house 104,000 IDPs, thirty-nine are facing the threat of immediate eviction.

The Martelly-Lamothe government has been very successful in dealing with the most visible of the IDP camps, and this has made the question of homeless earthquake victims still living in camps a less important subject in the national dialogue as well as for the international community.

Not offering a sustainable solution for IDPs wasn’t a problem in forcing them to leave camps, on the contrary, it created another problem: many places that should have been temporary have become permanent. Areas like Corail and Kanaran, which received the great majority of IDPs who were evicted as well as those who received a small stipend to leave the camps, have turned into large bidonville, or shantytowns, and no one even knows the true number of people who are living there.

The Haitian government has treated the internally displaced population in a discriminatory way, even more so considering the very serious dangers that families living in camps face in terms of the cholera and Chikungunya epidemics and the hurricane season.

Many people think the challenge of displaced people living in camps is in the past, but in reality this isn’t true at all – it isn’t an issue people are talking about because there is no money to help IDPs anymore. It is no longer a good way for NGOs to raise money, and the government has ceased creating propaganda about the positive outcomes of their efforts. Many NGOs have left Haiti along with funds they raised to help victims of the earthquake, and there are NGOs that up until now are still sitting on funds they raised to help the survivors, yet up until now they haven’t done anything with the money.

The failure of NGOs and the Haitian government to create a sustainable solution to Haiti’s housing crisis can be interpreted in many ways, one is that the disaster was a good way to raise funds and play politics, creating a market for NGOs and politicians.

Construction in Haiti continues to be a disaster, and despite the catastrophe of January 12, 2010, there have not been any major reforms put in place to prevent people from losing their lives when another major earthquake happens.

Nearly five years after the terrible events in 2010, the Haitian government has missed a huge opportunity to bring about positive and meaningful reforms for housing construction, and has also missed the chance to show the world that Haiti can treat its most vulnerable families with respect and dignity.



Luckner Romain: Small Business, Big Dreams

By: Etant Dupain, Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye

This is the best season for Luckner Romain: during these hot summer days, he can sell six, seven, even eight bags of water each day.

Luckner is selling small bags of water and he began with a large sack of these bags worth 150 gourdes ($3.60 USD). He will make a profit of between 80-100 gourdes ($1.90 - 2.40 USD) if none of the small bags are torn. At the same time, Luckner might return home without a single gourde, because he is walking and selling water bags downtown by the Champ de Mars, one of the most difficult places make a living in Port-au-Prince.

Luckner left Jacmel after twenty-eight years in January 2014 only to find massive unemployment in Port-au-Prince. He was in search of a better life, and he arrived without any money. His first work in the capital was wiping the dust and dirt off of cars. After he had saved a little money, he decided to start selling water bags instead.

“I chose the best path for life: work,” Luckner explained. “Without work you can’t progress. I come from a family that knows how to raise livestock, and that was our livelihood for several years until our business fell apart in our hands and we didn’t have any land to plant anything. If I had even a small piece of land, I would work on it--because even though we depend on the rain, when a person has a dream, you have to work to get those results.” 

Luckner has a smile on his face when he speaks about his dreams. When I ask for more details, he talks about restarting his family’s livestock business, which has deteriorated, even if he has to rebuild it one animal at a time.

A family business that had forty animals only five years ago no longer exists today. There are several reasons that the business fell apart, including illness in the family, environmental problems, and no veterinary care for the animals. 

At the moment the business fell apart, Luckner had a little bit of money saved as part of a plan to realize his dreams. Despite the fact that he didn’t share the amount of money with me, you can get an idea. A business that began with a lot of water bags worth 150 gourdes ($3.60 USD) six months ago is the opposite of hopeful today.

There was one question that I insisted on understanding at the end of our conversation: How was Luckner eating, sleeping, communicating? I wasn’t surprised to learn that he doesn’t have a house to sleep in; he sleeps in the street or with some friends who also live in the street. As for the question of food, it all depends on what is in his pocket and how much he makes each day. If he sells enough tonight, then tomorrow he will start the day with 25 gourdes ($.60 USD) of food he can buy on the street and 5 gourdes ($.03 USD) of juice from a woman selling food in the marketplace. According to Luckner, she makes some of the best street food in the area, and he invited me to eat one day with him. I promised to try and come by. 

Sitting on the Champ de Mars at the Place Dessalines, you can see several hundred people walking up and down, making their best effort to find a living for themselves and their families with small businesses and big dreams and responsibilities. It is the situation that the vast majority of the Haitian population faces, and according to national and international institutions, they are living on less than $2 a day.

An injection of funds and training for these small-scale entrepreneurs is one of the most effective ways to strengthen our economy because these are people who have experience and determination to work with dignity to ameliorate the conditions of their lives without being dependent on NGOs or the government. How can these people survive on less than $2 a day? In Haiti, almost everyone has their own small business, and the spirit of neighborhood konbit --community working together as a team--is the motor of resistance.

It is difficult to estimate the value of the business Luckner’s family had, but what is clear is that he has a plan to rebuild it. One water bag at a time, Luckner is becoming more determined to rebuild his business and make it successful again.


Where Are They?

By Etant Dupain, Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye

A few weeks after the earthquake, it was impossible to walk across any street in Haiti and not bump into an expatriate. Young, old, male, female. “Foreigners saving Haiti” was their anthem.

After the devastating earthquake of 2010, NGOs raised billions of dollars in the name of poor Haitians. The arrival of aid workers, mostly from the U.S., was like a carnival parade. They were everywhere, from the streets to the church. Today, as always, there are a few expats left in Haiti. But, the majority is gone, and there are reasons for this phenomenon.

Considering Haiti is a country with a very low quality of education, any expat can come to Haiti and call himself or herself an expert. He or she can easily can set up an NGO and go into business--from directing an orphanage to becoming a fake human rights advocate.

Over four years later, it seems like all of the enthusiasm about saving Haiti wasn’t real at all. It was mostly business as usual. Now the expats, like the relief money, are gone, the NGOs having wasted billions of dollars on themselves.

It’s fair for people to go to other places to find jobs, but the problem is the hypocrisy when it’s done in the name of humanitarian aid or human rights. Expats in Haiti are very privileged. If they’re white, it’s a plus for them. They don’t operate under any Haitian laws or pay taxes. Most of them don’t have legal papers to work in Haiti or even be in the country legally.

Expats contribute to lawlessness in other, more significant ways, too, from drugs to prostitution. And, not all of them come here just to work and pretend to help. Some come to find boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives--an unfortunate reality endemic to the North-South relationship.

In some cases, expats treat the people and civil groups they work with the same way that their governments treat our government. It’s a mentality problem: the superiority, the assumed exceptionalism, and the belief that they always know what is best for other people.

For sure, there are some good people who come to Haiti to help and do good work. No one can deny that or pretend they’re all the same.  The fact is that less disaster means less money, and less money means that the expats have all but disappeared.


Kanaran: Haiti’s largest new shantytown

Families Evicted from Displacement Camps Build New City in the Desert

The author, Etant Dupain, interviews residents of Kanaran.By: Etant Dupain, Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye

Port-au-Prince, Haiti: A few months after the January 12, 2010 earthquake, the Haitian Government and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with the support of the American Embassy, created what at the time they called a model transition camp for internally displaced people (IDPs).

Several thousand victims, the majority of who came from the IDP camp at the Petionville Golf Club near the home of the American Ambassador at that time. With the promise of jobs and houses, Camp Corail-Cesselesse was the first camp created in the area. A thirty minute drive from the downtown Port-au-Prince, Camp Corail has turned into a catastrophe four years later: the promises of job creation from the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and American Embassy have been unfulfiled, and the Haitian Government’s promise to build decent infrastructure including sanitation for the area have also fallen short, and they have provided nothing better than the temporary solutions of NGOs. 

Kanaran, or Canaan, is one of the largest new shantytowns in Haiti. Kanaran is an extension of Corail that has grown over the years. People began to come to the area when they saw that people at Corail received brand new tents from the NGOs and Haitian Government. One by one, families began to arrive and put their tents up, one after another.

Today Kanaran is one of the largest neighborhoods, with anarchic construction that follows no guidelines or principles. The number of people living in Kanaran is a mystery, party because it is difficult to assess the population without any institutions providing oversight for the land or construction of houses in Kanaran.

Kanaran and Corail have basically become one large community now, and may become the largest popular (or impoverished) neighborhood in the country in a few years if there is no intervention by the government to put the brakes on the unsupervised construction and illegal sale of land in the area. 

Kanaran has all kinds of people living in it, but the majority of the families there are people who were evicted from IDP camps and had no alternatives to relocate. Brianvi Philonène, 37 years old, is a mother of three who lived in an IDP camp at Delmas 2 since January 15, 2010. After nineteen months in that camp, the landowner evicted everyone from the land.

“I work in someone’s house to make a little money, but I don’t have enough to pay for a house,” explained Brianvi. “After I was evicted from the camp, I had no choice but to find another place to live. When I came here along with some of my neighbors from the camp, we found broken bottles and weeds and it was us who cleaned the space. I came here to live in this desert because I don’t have money and I don’t have any other option.”

Many people who received a payment of 20,000 gourdes (approximately $500 U.S.) from NGOs or the government to leave their camps ended up in Kanaran. There they have purchased a little land and built a small lean-to as a way to protect their families from the sun and rain. But at the same time, many profiteers have entered the area as well, buying land and building large houses.

The living conditions in the community are very grave – there are no toilets, no access to water, and it is extremely hot due to the deforestation. When the wind blows it can destroy tents and small houses that are not well constructed. Dust is a major cause of illness in the area that is like a desert. When it is windy, people breathe in large quantities of dust because the heat makes it impossible to stay under a tent or inside the small windowless houses.

Ronal Georges is the father of two children and he is currently unemployed. He is surviving because of his aunt, Marithérèse, who supports him and helps his family survive. With nasal congestion and a fever for two weeks, Ronal has been forced to stop looking for work.

“One of the biggest problems in the community of Kanaran is unemployment,” said Ronal. “It has been a long time since I have worked but I have been searching and searching and I can’t find anything. We know we came to live in tents in the desert and we knew that meant we wouldn’t have hygienic conditions, but without work we are dying of hunger. In the next few days I will go to Mirebalais even though I know the situation is even more difficult in the provinces. Whenever I find enough money to pay for the bus, I am going to go.”

Since 2010, it has been the promise of work in the area that has been the basis for the expansion of Corail and Kanaran, which today are basically one community. Kanaran is divided into five blocks, and it continues to grow daily without any decision by the authorities who should be concerned with stopping the expansion.

Desperation is the reason so many have been obligated to follow a series of promises that give nothing but more problems. Today, the tracks of the NGOs are almost invisible in places like Kanaran and Corail, despite the fact that these communities are the direct result of the policies of the NGOs towards IDPs, with the support of the Haitian government.

Kanaran is not only a problem because it is a zone without laws or any supervision, but also because it is a place that is frequented by many people as Haiti tries to relaunch its tourism sector. There is no immediate solution possible, but if nothing is done in Kanaran, it may become another Cite Soleil.

Walvens Charisma is 26 years old and he is a young teacher at the Mixte Cristal School. He declared, “Our future is really not clear here in Kanaran, not only because of the quality of life we have here but also because of how the area is developing. There is no one responsible for anything – it is everyone for himself here, and any day the government could come and force us of this land the same way they are evicting people now in downtown Port-au-Prince."

See the evolution of Corail and Kanaran in our Story Through Images: