April 30, 2020 (Ezega.com) -- The Addis Ababa City Government has demolished dozens of homes belonging to day laborers over the past three weeks, rendering at least 1,000 people homeless amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
Most of those whose homes have been destroyed recently lost their jobs due to the ongoing COVID-19 shutdowns told Amnesty International that they are now also having sleepless nights as authorities repeatedly confiscate tarpaulin or plastic sheeting they are using to shelter against heavy rains.
“Having a home is critical to protecting oneself from COVID-19, stopping its spread and recovering from it. The authorities must ensure that no one is put in a position of increased vulnerability to COVID-19 including by rendering them homeless,” Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International's Director for East and Southern Africa
“Stranded families have told us harrowing stories of how their children are sleeping out in the open, exposed to the drenching rain and cold,” said Deprose Muchena
According to the authorities in Bole District, the demolitions, which started mid-February, were targeting illegal structures in the area. Victims, however, told Amnesty International they had built their homes on land they bought from farmers in 2007. The authorities, however, do not recognize this purchase and insist the families are squatters because they did not purchase the land from the Addis Ababa municipality.
After the early April demolitions of their permanent homes, the affected families attempted to rebuild temporary shelters made from canvas and tarpaulin, but these too were pulled down and their materials confiscated by police in yet another round of demolitions that started on 14 April 2020.
“The ongoing demolitions are a terrible act of inhumanity when people have so much to contend with - COVID-19, joblessness, and heavy downpours. The authorities are making a bad situation worse by inflicting homelessness on people who do not even know where their next meal will come from,” Deprose Muchena said.
Amnesty International said it has verified, using satellite imagery analysis, about 40 recently built structures have been damaged or destroyed since 6 April 2020 near the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in sub-city District 12. The satellite images show before and after images of the area with and without missing homes, as well as the appearance of tents and other temporary structures in place of what had been permanent homes.
Most of the victims of these demolitions worked as casual laborers in construction sites in Addis Ababa which are no longer operational due to the COVID-19 shutdowns.
Families told Amnesty International that their homes were demolished without any notice, nor had the authorities engaged them in any discussions or consultations as is required by international human rights law as some of the safeguards against forced evictions. Protection against forced evictions applies to everyone regardless of whether they own, rent or occupy the homes or land in question.
One woman, a single mother, told Amnesty International that she was at work on 6 April when her neighbor called to tell her that her house was being demolished.
“Now I cover myself and my four children under a tarp during the night and whenever it rains. We cannot even put up a makeshift home because the police are taking the canvas and the tent,” she said. The woman asked to remain anonymous due to fear of retribution from the local authorities who are arresting anyone speaking publicly, or to the media about this issue,” the organization said
"The authorities must immediately stop these forced evictions and ensure that people are provided with alternative housing as a matter of urgency. For the longer term, they must begin proper consultations with affected families on what the problem really is, and thereafter follow due process on the plan of action agreed upon," Deprose Muchena said.