A UN rights expert called Tuesday for governments to ban evictions until the COVID-19 pandemic ends, warning the number of people being expelled from their homes was rising globally.
Warning of an impending “tsunami” of evictions, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the United Nations’ top expert on the right to housing, stressed that “losing your home during this pandemic could mean losing your life”.
The independent expert, who is appointed by the UN but does not speak on its behalf, stressed that “the right to housing is central to any response to the pandemic”.
“But now we are seeing an acceleration in evictions and home demolitions.”
Rajagopal said that while some governments have implemented temporary bans on forced evictions, many people are continuing to lose their homes.
He pointed for instance to Kenya where more than 8,000 people were forcibly ejected from their homes in a single day in May, and Brazil where more than 2,000 families have been evicted amid the pandemic.
But he emphasised that the danger was global.
“Temporary bans in many countries have ended or are coming to an end, and this raises serious concerns that a tsunami of evictions may follow,” he warned.
“Governments must not allow people to become homeless during this pandemic because they lose their job and cannot pay their rent or mortgage.”
His comments came as activists and relief groups in the United States — the country hardest hit in the pandemic — scramble to avert seeing millions pushed into homelessness.
The Aspen Institute has estimated that more than 40 million people in the country could be at risk of eviction in coming months.
“Forced evictions are an outrageous violation of human rights,” Rajagopal said.