Philippines Detaining Homeless Before APEC Summit, Rights Group Says
دوشنبه 25 آبان 17:20
MANILA — The Philippine government is conducting “clearing operations” to round up and detain hundreds of homeless people, including children, so that they will not be visible during this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, the group Human Rights Watch said on Monday.
More than 3,000 visiting government officials, business leaders and journalists are in the Philippine capital this week for a meeting of the APEC forum that will include President Obama, President Xi Jinping of China, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, and more than a dozen other national leaders.
The Philippine government denied that people were being held against their will or that the homeless were taken off the street only for the APEC forum.
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Thousands of police officers and other security officials have been deployed across Manila in preparation for the gathering. Many of the main roads through the city have blocked lanes or are completely closed. Residents of high-rise buildings near where the world leaders will pass have been told to close their curtains and stay off balconies. Most government offices and many private companies have closed for the week.
The preparations have included city beautification programs, including painting public areas and picking up litter. Human Rights Watch said that this had been extended to homeless people being taken off the streets against their will and detained in centers around the capital until after the world leaders leave the country.
“Abusing Manila’s homeless population shouldn’t be part of the price tag for the Philippines government to host high-profile international events,” said Phelim Kine, a deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “APEC delegates should make it clear to their Philippine hosts that abusive ‘clearing operations’ against Manila’s most vulnerable residents only tarnish the reputations of the Philippines and APEC.”
According to Human Rights Watch, police and other government officials have in the last week detained at least 141 street children in centers around Manila and in surrounding cities. The group said in a statement released Monday that their researcher had interviewed children and adults, including disabled people, who say they were treated roughly when taken off the streets and were not being allowed to leave the government centers where they were staying.
Alicia S. Bonoan, a director in the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development who oversees the agency’s activities in the capital, said in a telephone interview that the government’s work to help the homeless took place year round and did not involve involuntary detention.
“It’s not a clearing operation, and it’s not related to APEC,” she said. “It is a regular outreach program being done by local governments. Why do the media only look into this during APEC and when the pope visits? This is being done all year around.”
The government has admitted clearing the streets of homeless people during previous high-profile events. During the January visit by Pope Francis to the Philippines, the government rounded up dozens of homeless families and brought them to a resort in the tourist area of Batangas, south of Manila, until after the papal visit, a senior government official said during a Senate hearing on the issue.
Ms. Bonoan said that Human Rights Watch was given access to the centers where homeless people were being sheltered and that the group did not feature the comments of people who were happy to be off the streets and receiving assistance.
“We train local governments to counsel the homeless and not to gather them up or mistreat them,” she said. “When they reach out to them, they must deal with them in a humane way.”