A special United Nations investigator on adequate housing says forced evictions around the world have reached alarming levels. He says countless millions of people are being forced out of their homes in both democratic and authoritarian countries.
Special U.N. investigator, Miloon Kothari, says many so-called development-based evictions are done under the pretext of serving the public good. They are linked to urban renewal, slum upgrading, housing renovation, city beautification or other land-use programs. He says in most cases, they violate human rights standards.
For example, Kothari notes, it is one year since the authorities in Zimbabwe launched Operation Drive Out the Filth to allegedly rid the capital Harare of illegal structures, businesses and criminal activities. He says the tragedy for most of the estimated 700,000 people who lost their homes and livelihoods has grown worse.
He says the majority of people who were evicted are still homeless, in resettlement camps or living in inadequate housing condition, without food, potable water or sanitation.
What is most shocking about this situation, he says is that the humanitarian community seems to have forgotten Zimbabwe. He says there is silence at the highest levels of the United Nations, from international donors and African leaders.
“We have information that another round of evictions is imminent because many of the people out of sheer desperation have gone back to the places from which they were displaced and put up temporary shacks, tin shacks,” he said. “And now the information is that the Mugabe government is going to embark on another round of evictions which, as last year, are often accompanied by force.”
Kothari says a wave of evictions displacing hundreds of thousands of people is occurring worldwide. He says he has received disturbing reports from countries such as Pakistan, India, Cambodia, Angola, Mexico, Russia, the United States and Canada.
In all such evictions, he says people are not told ahead of time that their homes will be demolished. He says they are not consulted about the plans and alternative solutions are not sought.
“The other common feature is that there is increasing police brutality and violence,” he added. “In some of the case I referred to, homes have been demolished when people were still inside. Women have been beaten up, children have been very badly injured and there is complete impunity. For all of these actions, there is no investigation from governments and I am talking about even democratic countries like in India.”
Kothari says discrimination seems to play a critical role in forced eviction cases. He says women, ethnic, religious, racial and other minorities as well as indigenous people are far more likely than others to be evicted.