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Urgent need seen for lasting solutions for Haiti's 1.5 million displaced

Briefing Notes, 12 July 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 12 July 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has had a small team in Haiti over the past six months but we have nonetheless played an important support role, working closely with OHCHR and with the Government and other partners. Since the January 12th earthquake our work has gone from flying in initial emergency relief and shelter, to helping people who were injured and evacuated to Dominican Republic, and working for the future of the huge displaced populations in and around Port-au-prince.

The gaps and challenges remain enormous. At the peak of displacement some 2.3 million people were living away from their former homes. Today 1.5 million people remain in spontaneous settlements. Most of the displaced are in settlements in and around Port-au-Prince, and assistance has not adequately reached those in host families. Durable solutions for the displaced are still not in sight.

UNHCR and OHCHR are working in partnership to coordinate with international and national actors responses to the many protection challenges facing displaced people. Camp security is still insufficient, conditions can be squalid, and in the absence of durable solutions many people are living on private land where they're under pressure from private owners to leave. The poorest of these were tenants before the earthquake and now simply have nowhere to return to.

UNHCR, in support of the Protection Cluster led by OHCHR, continues to implement Quick Impact Projects along the border with the Dominican Republic as well as in remote areas outside of Port-au Prince. The aim is to enhance protection of extremely vulnerable displaced populations and their host communities. We have provided emergency assistance to more than 200,000 beneficiaries in and outside Port-au-Prince.

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Statelessness in the Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic, UNHCR runs programmes that benefit refugees and asylum-seekers from Haiti as well as migrants and members of their family born in the country, some of whom could be stateless or at risk of becoming stateless. Many live in bateyes, which are destitute communities on once thriving sugar cane plantations. The inhabitants have been crossing over from Haiti for decades to work in the sugar trade.

Among these initiatives, UNHCR provides legal aid, academic remedial courses and vocational training for refugees and asylum-seekers. They also support entrepreneurial initiatives and access to micro credit.

UNHCR also has an increased presence in border communities in order to promote peaceful coexistence between Dominican and Haitian populations. The UN refugee agency has found that strengthening the agricultural production capacities of both groups promotes integration and mitigates tension.

Many Haitians and Dominicans living in the dilapidated bateyes are at risk of statelessness. Stateless people are not considered as nationals by any country. This can result in them having trouble accessing and exercising basic rights, including education and medical care as well as employment, travel and housing. UNHCR aims to combat statelessness by facilitating the issuance of birth certificates for people living in the bateyes.

Statelessness in the Dominican Republic

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UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visits HaitiPlay video

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visits Haiti

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