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Gang violence in Haiti has displaced nearly 580,000 people, a new UN report says

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Gang violence in Haiti has displaced nearly 580,000 people, a new UN report says
News

News

Gang violence in Haiti has displaced nearly 580,000 people, a new UN report says

2024-06-20 06:33 Last Updated At:06:40

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Surging violence in Haiti from clashes with armed gangs since March has displaced nearly 580,000 people, according to a new report from the U.N. migration agency, a sobering figure that underscores the magnitude of the Caribbean nation's crisis.

Haiti has long faced unrest but at the end of February, gangs unleashed coordinated attacks with gunmen taking control of police stations, opening fire on the main international airport that remained closed for nearly three months and stormed Haiti’s two biggest prisons.

A report released on Tuesday by the International Organization for Migration said the displacement of more than half a million is mainly due to people fleeing the capital of Port-au-Prince for other provinces, which lack the resources to support them.

In March, the agency reported more than 362,000 internally displaced people in Haiti. Since then, the violence has more than doubled the number of internally displaced in the southern region — already ravaged by a 2021 earthquake — from 116,000 to 270,000.

“Nearly all those internally displaced are currently hosted by communities already struggling with overburdened social services and poor infrastructure, raising further concerns about tensions with the potential to spark further violence,” the report said.

With more than 2,500 people killed or injured across Haiti in the first three months of the year, Haiti’s National Police, understaffed and overwhelmed by gangs with powerful arsenals, has been unable to bring the situation under control.

Marie Jean, 49, and her two children were displaced from their Port-au-Prince home after her husband was killed by a gang in February. She’s now sheltered with her children at a public school.

“I lived in a comfortable home that my husband worked hard to build,” Jean told The Associated Press. “Now I’m living in a situation that’s inhuman.”

Juste Dorvile, 39, is also staying at a public school with her 12-year-old daughter and boyfriend as gunshots are heard constantly in the area. “Everyday we're hoping that we survive,” she said.

With the gangs in control of at least 80% of Port-au-Prince and key roads leading to the rest of the country, many are living in makeshift shelters, including schools and learning institutions that are now hosting more than 60,000 people.

The gangs have also been charging fees for those wanting to use the highways or blackmailing drivers to get their hijacked trucks back on the roads, where police presence is scarce.

Haiti's new acting prime minister, Garry Conille, who was appointed last month along with a Cabinet, attended a ceremony on Tuesday where over 400 officers graduated from the police academy, with the expectation that they will help curb gang violence in Haiti. He reminded the graduates that the people count on their dedication to combat insecurity.

“You need to know that you are not alone,” Conille said. “You are the hope of the population at this crucial moment in our history.”

Violence is also on the rise outside Haiti’s capital. Last week, armed gangs attacked families located in Terre-Neuve, a village in northern Haiti, forcing more than 1,000 people to flee their homes to safer areas.

Murphy Marcos reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Police guard outside the hospital where Haiti's newly selected prime minister, Garry Conille was hospitalized in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, late Saturday, June 8, 2024. Louis Gérald Gilles, a member of the transitional presidential council that recently chose Conille said he was en route to the hospital and did not have further information. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Police guard outside the hospital where Haiti's newly selected prime minister, Garry Conille was hospitalized in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, late Saturday, June 8, 2024. Louis Gérald Gilles, a member of the transitional presidential council that recently chose Conille said he was en route to the hospital and did not have further information. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Police guard outside the hospital where Haiti's newly selected prime minister, Garry Conille was hospitalized in Port-au-Prince, Haiti late Saturday, June 8, 2024. Louis Gérald Gilles, a member of the transitional presidential council that recently chose Conille said he was en route to the hospital and did not have further information. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Police guard outside the hospital where Haiti's newly selected prime minister, Garry Conille was hospitalized in Port-au-Prince, Haiti late Saturday, June 8, 2024. Louis Gérald Gilles, a member of the transitional presidential council that recently chose Conille said he was en route to the hospital and did not have further information. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s top court ruled Thursday that same-sex couples are eligible to receive the same health insurance benefits as heterosexual couples, a landmark verdict hailed by human rights groups.

The Supreme Court said it ruled that the state health insurance agency’s refusal to provide spousal insurance coverage for gay couples was an act of discrimination that violates the constitutional principle of equality.

Thursday’s ruling is final and cannot be appealed.

“Today’s ruling is a historic victory for equality and human rights in South Korea,” Amnesty International said in a statement. “The court has taken a significant step towards dismantling systemic discrimination and ensuring inclusivity for all.”

A legal battle between a gay couple, So Seong-wook and Kim Yong-min, and the National Health Insurance Service began after the insurance agency revoked So’s registration as a dependent of Kim, prompting So to file an administrative suit.

In 2022, the Seoul Administrative Court ruled in favor of the insurance agency. But in February 2023, the Seoul High Court overturned the earlier verdict, saying that denying So’s spousal coverage rights without reasonable grounds was discriminatory because such benefits are given to heterosexual spouses.

Public views on gender issues in South Korea have gradually changed in recent years, but critics say the Asian country still has a long way to go compared with other developed countries. South Korea doesn’t legally recognize same-sex marriages.

“While this decision is a major milestone, the case itself is a sobering reminder of the lengthy judicial processes that same-sex couples must endure to secure basic rights that should be universally guaranteed,” Amnesty International said.

So and Kim welcomed the ruling.

“When I listened to the verdict, I was so moved that I couldn't hold back my tears,” So told reporters outside the court. He said he hopes the ruling will lead to South Korea legally accepting same-sex marriages.

Kim said he is “very happy” because he thinks the court recognized his love for So.

Gay couple So Seong-wook, left, and Kim Yong Min, leave the Supreme Court building in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (Suh Dae-yeon/Yonhap via AP)

Gay couple So Seong-wook, left, and Kim Yong Min, leave the Supreme Court building in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (Suh Dae-yeon/Yonhap via AP)

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