Canada launches evacuation programme for citizens amidst Haiti's escalating crisis

Written by  Prerit Chauhan   |  March 26th 2024 03:56 PM  |  Updated: March 26th 2024 03:56 PM

Canada launches evacuation programme for citizens amidst Haiti's escalating crisis

PTC Web Desk: Amidst the backdrop of escalating gang violence, political turmoil, and a deepening humanitarian crisis in Haiti, Canada has initiated a programme to evacuate its citizens from the troubled Caribbean nation. 

Foreign Minister Melanie Joly announced on Monday that the Canadian Government would prioritise assisting "the most vulnerable Canadians" in leaving Haiti for the neighbouring Dominican Republic. This includes individuals with medical conditions or those accompanied by children.

Joly said strict eligibility requirements set by the Dominican Republic meant that only Canadian citizens possessing a valid Canadian passport would qualify for this assisted departure. The urgency of the situation was underscored by the departure of 18 Canadian citizens via the programme on Monday.

Haiti's descent into chaos has prompted urgent calls for assistance from Haitian Canadians, who number nearly 180,000 in Canada. Armed gangs launched coordinated attacks on police stations, prisons and other state institutions in early March, leading to widespread violence and demands for the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry. The unrest has forced over 360,000 Haitians to flee their homes, while many others remain trapped in their residences in Port-au-Prince, unable to access essential supplies.

The situation has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian crisis, with growing concerns about access to food and medical care. Humanitarian agencies have warned of the severe consequences if the crisis continues unabated. Laurent Uwumuremyi, Haiti director at Mercy Corps, highlighted the near-total control of neighborhoods by armed groups, rendering basic tasks such as grocery shopping and accessing medical services increasingly impossible.

In response to queries about the logistics of the evacuation programme, Minister Joly stressed the need for evacuees to assemble at designated safe locations. From there, they would be airlifted to the Dominican Republic via helicopter. The details of the operation remain confidential to prevent potential targeting by gangs.

Moreover, the Canadian government is exploring alternative avenues to facilitate the departure of other Canadians and their relatives from Haiti, including Canadian permanent residents and their families.

The United States has also initiated evacuation efforts, organising government-chartered helicopter flights from Haiti to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. US citizens are then responsible for their onward travel to the United States. Over 230 US citizens have been evacuated since mid-March, with departures from both Port-au-Prince and the northern coastal city of Cap-Haitien.

The US, home to the largest Haitian diaspora community globally, has been closely monitoring the situation. According to census figures, over 1.1 million people in the US identified as Haitian in 2022, highlighting the deep ties between the two nations.


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