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Ottawa begins evacuating “vulnerable” Canadian nationals from Haiti

Photo: Adrian Wyld The Canadian Press Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, at a press conference in Ottawa on Monday

The Canadian Press

March 25, 2024

  • Canada

Canada transported 18 vulnerable Canadians from Haiti to the neighboring Dominican Republic by helicopter on Monday, and other Canadians will be offered the opportunity to evacuate this way in the coming days, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced.

Haiti has been plunged into a deep security crisis since mid-2021, when gangs took control of key infrastructure and sparked violent internecine wars that led to the collapse of most systems medical and food supplies of the country.

“Gangs terrorize the streets; women and children are afraid to leave their homes,” Minister Joly said at a press conference Monday in Ottawa.

The chaos intensified earlier this month when Ariel Henry, Haiti's prime minister-designate, traveled to Kenya to confirm plans for an international military intervention led by the police of the South African country. the East.

Gangs freed violent prisoners and took control of Port-au-Prince's international airport, preventing Mr. Henry from returning to the country. The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, also turned away the prime minister.

Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Henry agreed to resign once a “presidential transition council” is formed to oversee a Kenyan-led international military intervention.

Canada has been advising Canadians against traveling to Haiti for two years, but when all commercial flights were canceled, Ottawa was encouraged to help people leave that country, Minister Joly explained on Monday .

“Those who wish to leave cannot due to the situation prevailing at the airport in Port-au-Prince,” Minister Joly explained at a press conference in Ottawa on Monday. This is why today we are launching an assisted departure operation for the most vulnerable Canadians in Haiti. »

This “assisted departure” is only offered to people with a valid Canadian passport, said Ms. Joly, due to the strict conditions imposed at the border by the Dominican Republic.< /p>

In two steps

Canadian permanent residents, Canadian citizens without a valid passport, and family members of Canadians are not eligible for this helicopter air transportation. The government is working on other means to help these people leave the country, Minister Joly said on Monday.

“First, we will facilitate the travel of the most vulnerable Canadians, for example, those who have a health problem or those who have children,” Minister Joly said on Monday.

“Secondly, for other Canadians and their family members, and for permanent residents and their family members, we are currently working on other assisted departure options, because our priority is to never separate families. »

“Basically, we take it one day at a time. »

The helicopter flight will be offered free of charge, but Minister Joly's office has indicated that it will then be up to Canadians to pay for their accommodation in the Dominican Republic and their return trip to Canada, for which Ottawa can provide loans.< /p>

Nearly 3,000 Canadians are officially registered as still in this country, said Julie Sunday, assistant deputy minister, Consular Services, Security and Emergency Management.

However, fewer than 300 people requested help to leave the country, including permanent residents and family members of Canadians. An even smaller number – fewer than 100 of them – are Canadian citizens with valid passports.

And only about 30 people indicated they were “ready to go,” the assistant deputy minister explained.

Minister Joly indicated that Canadians would be evacuated from a “green zone,” a safe location in Haiti. In other evacuations elsewhere in the world, Canadians chose not to leave immediately, fearing risks on the road to reach the meeting point, Ms. Joly added, noting that gangs were currently taking over abandoned homes.

Earlier this month, due to an increasingly unstable security situation in Haiti, Canada had flown most of its diplomats from its embassy in Port-au-Prince by helicopter to the neighboring Dominican Republic, so that they can work remotely.

Canada's ambassador to Haiti, André François Giroux, will remain in the country, Ms. Joly reiterated on Monday. Deputy Minister Sunday said staff working at the embassy could still help issue emergency travel documents to Canadians who no longer have passports.

Ottawa is currently focused on helping Haitians find a way out of this crisis themselves and Ms. Sunday reiterated that solutions cannot be imposed by foreigners.

“We know that the Haitian people need us,” she said.

Canada has also deployed diplomatic and consular personnel to assist in the “assisted departure” of vulnerable Canadians from the country.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116