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Is it safe to travel to Haiti now amid gang takeover?

Several countries are advising their citizens against travelling to Haiti, including the US, UK, Ireland and Canada as gangs continue to take hold of the country.

Earlier this month, gangs attempted to take Haiti’s Toussaint Louverture International Airport, located in Port-Au-Prince, the country’s capital and broke into a nearby port services terminal. Armed men have also stormed police stations in the country and let thousands of prisoners loose from Haiti’s National Penitentiary.

Ariel Henry, who had been running the country as prime minister and acting president until he resigned on Tuesday amid international pressure, fled the country to Puerto Rico last week after he was refused entry into the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Dominican air, land and sea borders are closed to travellers.

What is the situation with airports and ports in Haiti?

Flights are not arriving in the country as one of its international airports remains closed following the attacks and a decision made on Monday to form a transitional government after Mr Henry’s resignation. It is unclear if cruise ships plan to continue stopping in the country and one international port has been closed.

Typically, Spirit Airlines, JetBlue Airways and American Airlines operate flights to the country but those operations have been suspended. All of the airlines have waived change fees for customers wanting to leave the country. It’s not clear when commercial flights may resume.

Two cruise line companies, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises stop in Labadee, a private resort about six hours away from Port-Au-Prince. It’s not clear if the cruise liners plan to continue operating in the country under its current political situation. The Independent has reached out to the companies for comment.

State of emergency now in place

Haiti has declared a state of emergency through 3 April. A daily curfew is in place in the capital from 6pm to 5am.

In a security alert released on Sunday, The US Department of State urged American citizens against travelling to the country.

Activist reacts during a demonstration against CARICOM for the decision following the resignation of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry (Anadolu via Getty Images)
Activist reacts during a demonstration against CARICOM for the decision following the resignation of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry (Anadolu via Getty Images)

“The current security situation in Haiti is unpredictable and dangerous,” the statement read. “We are aware that there are few or no commercial options to depart Haiti safely at this time. As they become available, we urge US citizens to take advantage of them.”

US citizens currently in the country should prepare to shelter in place for an extended period of time and seek assistance from the US embassy in Port-Au-Prince. Citizens should note that the US is unable to facilitate travel out of the country.

US military evacuates embassy staff

Over the weekend, US military officials moved to evacuate non-essential personnel from the embassy. The German and EU embassies also took similar measures.

Protesters demand the resignation of prime minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 7 March 2024 (EPA/Johnson Sabin)
Protesters demand the resignation of prime minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 7 March 2024 (EPA/Johnson Sabin)

The UK, Irish and Canadian governments are advising their citizens against travelling to Haiti, but anyone in the country should contact their nearest diplomatic missions. The UK has an embassy in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic’s capital. Meanwhile, Irish citizens should get in touch with the country’s embassy in Washington DC.

The Canadian embassy in Port-Au-Prince is closed but citizens may call the office for emergency assistance.