Updated: February 24, 2021
Ethiopia’s forced evictions have rendered more than 1000 jobless workers homeless in Addis Ababa, the capital, amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Amnesty International said on Tuesday Addis Ababa municipal authorities have demolished dozens of homes belonging to day laborers over the past three weeks.
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According to the authorities in Bole District, the demolitions, which started mid-February, were targeting illegal structures in the area.
But victims told Amnesty International they had built their homes on land they bought from farmers in 2007. The authorities say the purchase was illegal and insist the families are squatters because they did not purchase the land from the Addis Ababa municipality.
“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, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.
“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,” Muchena added.
The human rights organization said most of those whose homes were destroyed had recently lost their jobs due to the ongoing COVID-19 shutdowns.
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, Amnesty said.
“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.
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 said their homes were demolished without any notice, nor had the authorities engaged in any discussions or consultations as is required by international human rights law as some of the safeguards against forced evictions.