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Canada evacuates 18 from Haiti, expects more airlifts to follow

Assisted evacuation is only available to people with a valid Canadian passport
Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly speaks in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Friday, March 1, 2024. Joly says she welcomes the vote in the UN Security Council to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Canada airlifted 18 vulnerable Canadians out of Haiti by helicopter to the Dominican Republic Monday and more will be offered the chance to evacuate in the coming days, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Monday.

Haiti has been in a profound security crisis since mid-2021, when gangs took control of key infrastructure and started violent turf wars that have led to a collapse of most medical and food systems in the country.

Two weeks ago, unelected Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry agreed to resign once a transitional council is formed to oversee an international military intervention led by Kenya.

Canada has been advising Canadians against travelling to Haiti for two years, but were prompted to help people escape when all commercial flights to the country were cancelled, Joly said.

“The difference is now the airport is not functional, the security situation is untenable at the airport,” Joly said at a press conference in Ottawa Monday.

“That is why in these circumstances it is important for us to be able to bring Canadians to safety.”

The assisted evacuation is only available to people with a valid Canadian passport, Joly said, because of strict eligibility requirements in the Dominican Republic.

Canadian permanent residents, citizens without a valid passport, and the family members of Canadians are not eligible for the helicopter airlift. The government is working on other ways to help those people leave the country, Joly said.

There are close to 3,000 Canadians officially registered as remaining in the country, said Julie Sunday, assistant deputy minister of consular, security, and emergency management.

However fewer than 300 have requested assistance to leave the country and only about 30 people signalled that they were “travel ready,” she said.

“We’re prioritizing the most vulnerable Canadians. For example, those who have a medical condition or those who have children,” Joly said.

Earlier this month, Canada airlifted most of its diplomats from its embassy in Port-au-Prince by helicopter, sending them to the neighbouring Dominican Republic to work remotely because of the increasingly volatile security situation.

Canada’s ambassador to Haiti, André François Giroux, will remain in the country, Joly reiterated Monday.

“We know that the Haitian people need us,” Joly said in French.

Canada has also deployed diplomatic and consular staff to assist with the evacuation of vulnerable Canadians from the country.

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