Haiti / Places We Go

The Refugee Camps Of Port-au-Prince

These places are everywhere and they are seriously fucking dangerous. And it is me saying they are dangerous and you know my standards, so rest assured that they really are dangerous. Many Haitians will not go anywhere near them which means you shouldn’t either. In fact, the one time we did drift near one for more than a moment, we would have been murdered had it not been for the intervention of our fixer.


The camps formed in the weeks following the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti which killed over 200,000 people and left many times that many homeless. With nothing left and nowhere to go, the poorest Haitians migrated to the only open spaces left and established crude camps with what materials they could salvage or loot and from the donated supplies of the global community.  Today, the camps are beginning to take on an air of permanency.

The camp pictured below is across from Haiti’s destroyed National Palace:

tent city haiti

This camp is near the airport:

refugee camp port-au-prince

I know the camps look fairly benign from these pictures, but they are filled with human predators. Rape, murder and robbery rates in the camps are stratospheric and rival those of the eastern DRC or Mogadishu.  And bear in mind that most incidents go unreported.  The majority of the victims are the residents of the camps themselves, but the violence often spills outside the borders of the camps as well.

Most people in the camps have literally nothing – nothing to lose, nothing to hope for, nothing to live for… They live off of food aid from the United Nations and spend most of their days clustered around the tents getting high. Our fixer kept warning us to not walk too closely to the camps as a not uncommon tactic for the predators of the tent cities is to snatch a victim (or victims) that has ventured too close to the camps and to drag them back into the tents to be “processed”. If you’re lucky this means that you will be raped repeatedly (women and men ) and have every item in your possession, right down to your underwear, stripped from you. If you’re unlucky, you will be murdered at the end of this process:

port-au-prince refugee camp

Nevertheless, I simply had to document the inside of these camps for you, dear readers, and so I managed to discreetly move up to this quiet corner of one encampment (which used to be a park) and snap the following two pictures for you:

haiti tent city

I thought this was kind of funny. The tents donated by the U.S. and others are very low profile. In other words, you have to search to determine that the tent came from the U.S. The Chinese, however, have no such hangups over trumpeting their virtuous behavior:

China tents Haiti

Although there are many massive refugee camps like those pictured above, the majority of refugees in Haiti are crammed into small settlements such as this one below on the grounds of what used to be a bank:


There is a great photo series waiting to be done on the refugee camps of Haiti by someone that is well-armed or has a hell of a lot of power…

5 thoughts on “The Refugee Camps Of Port-au-Prince

  1. Pingback: Visiting Port-au-Prince, Haiti – Scenes and Pictures of Port-au-Prince | The Velvet Rocket

  2. From NY Times…

    In some places, the schism between haves and have-nots is almost farcical. Around the Place Boyer in Pétionville, the wealthy town above Port-au-Prince, clubs and restaurants with security guards cater to the elite and to foreigners, while across the street, in a refugee camp, hundreds of Haitians huddle under tarps and in tents in the mud and wind of the season’s unpredictable rains.

  3. Dear Sir,

    My name is Alain De Neve. I am chief editor of the french magazine “Diplomatie”. I discovered on your blog a very interesting photo indicating China’s involvment in Haïti relief. I would like to know if it could be possible to use this pictire in order to illustrate the artricle we dedicate to the disaster in Haiti.

    Sincerely Yours,

    Alain De Neve

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