World

UK warns against all travel to Caribbean nation as gang violence rages

The UK government has warned against all travel to Haiti as intense fighting and gang violence continues to spiral in the Caribbean nation.

It follows US secretary of state Antony Blinken heading to Jamaica in an attempt to solve the crisis, which threatens to bring down Haiti’s government.

Attacks by powerful gangs on key government targets began on 29 February across Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, with gunmen having burned police stations, closed the main international airports and raided the country’s two biggest prisons, releasing 4,000 inmates.

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Protests continue in Haiti

There are no British consular officials in the country, with embassy staff having relocated to the Dominican Republic in November 2019.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said assistance would be “severely limited” in Haiti.

It said on its website: “FCDO advises against all travel to Haiti due to the volatile security situation.”

The United Nations estimates thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in the conflict, with widespread reports of rape, torture and ransom kidnappings.

Food and water are dwindling and the main port in Port-au-Prince remains closed, stranding dozens of containers with critical supplies.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards a plane to Jamaica. Pic: AP
Image:
US secretary of state Antony Blinken boards a plane to Jamaica. Pic: AP

Mr Blinken will meet Caribbean leaders as pressure grows on Prime Minister Ariel Henry to resign or agree to a transitional council.

It is unclear if Mr Henry, who has been locked out of his country, would attend the meeting, organised by members of a regional trade bloc known as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which has pressed for a transitional government for months.

Read more:
The moment I met the gang boss leading violent uprising
The people fleeing gang rule in Haiti

Police officers patrol Port-au-Prince. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Police officers patrol Port-au-Prince. Pic: Reuters

In a statement, the State Department said Mr Blinken will discuss a proposal to expedite a political transition in Haiti and also discuss the long-awaited deployment of a multinational security mission to restore order in Haiti, set to be led by Kenya.

Haiti entered a state of emergency on 3 March after gangs boss – and former police officer – Jimmy Cherizier, known as Barbecue, called for criminal groups to unite and overthrow Mr Henry.

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People flee gunfire near Haiti airport

The prime minister was in Kenya when the attacks began, pushing for the UN-backed deployment of a police force from the east African country – which has been delayed by a court ruling.

He landed in Puerto Rico last week after being denied entry into the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

Mr Henry has not issued any public comment since the attacks began.

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