Sat. Apr 20th, 2024

Canada “reduced to the essentials” its personnel in Haiti

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Haitian soldiers patrolled the road near the Port-au-airport Prince, Wednesday.

The Canadian Press

Canada has reduced the number of diplomats at its embassy in Haiti by more than half, citing a worsening security situation more unstable in this country.

The security situation remains unstable, Sébastien Beaulieu, head of security at Global Affairs Canada, told journalists on Thursday.

He specified that most employees Canadians from the embassy in Port-au-Prince had been flown by helicopter early Thursday to the neighboring Dominican Republic, where they will work remotely.

The helicopter also brought security experts who were already assigned to the embassy in Haiti, but who were overseas and found themselves unable to return to Canada when gangs took over. control of the main airport over the past few weeks.

This decision to limit Canada's diplomatic presence to only essential employees comes a week after other countries made the same decision. Canada has since closed access to the embassy and required its staff to work remotely.

Mr. Beaulieu would not say whether Canada had emulated the U.S. decision to deploy troops to protect its embassy, ​​but he said the country had reduced its diplomatic footprint to better protect staff remaining in Port-au-Prince. -Prince.

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Withdrawal is also part of this logic in terms of our capacity to concentrate our security, our assets, our life support system, to support this core team that remains in place, he said. We are pleased with the measures taken to protect our core team and ensure their safety and security.

Canada has been advising all Canadians in Haiti since October 2022 to leave that country, but Beaulieu said there are still nearly 3,000 officially registered Canadians there.

Embassy staff are sending messages to these people and asking them to shelter in place, respect the curfew and stock up on water, food and medicine, as Haiti has lost most of its capacity to import goods.

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Gasoline is also a rare commodity currently in Haiti due to the gangs who control supplies to the port of Port-au-Prince. (File photo)

Mr. Beaulieu declined to say how many diplomats left and how many stayed behind, citing security concerns. He said, however, that those who remained represented 10 to 50 percent of the embassy's usual staff.

According to Global Affairs Canada data previously submitted to Parliament, the Port-au-Prince embassy had 15 Canadian diplomats and 37 local employees as of July 2022.

Two days ago, Haitian Prime Minister-designate Ariel Henry agreed to resign once a transitional presidential council is formed to oversee a Kenyan-led international military intervention.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussed this mission with his Kenyan counterpart on Wednesday and he hinted during a press conference on Thursday , that Kenya was not sure of leading it.

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In October, the Security Council gave the green light to the sending of a multinational force led by Kenya. (File photo)

We hope they will lead a multinational security response force to help stabilize Haiti, Mr. Trudeau told reporters in Windsor, Ontario. The human and security catastrophe Haiti is currently experiencing is extremely difficult.

Sylvie Bédard, acting associate deputy minister for the Americas, said after the comments from Mr. Trudeau that Canada had no doubt that Kenya would follow through on its commitment. We remain confident in the deployment of this mission, she declared.

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

Last December, the head of Canadian Joint Operations Command, Vice-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie, told The Canadian Press in an end-of-year interview that the government had prepared a plan for evacuated to Haiti last year, but had never used it.

Sébastien Beaulieu, of Global Affairs Canada , specifies that emergency plans are continually updated and that he would not speculate on what would push Canada to begin evacuations.

No assisted departure or repatriation flights are planned for Canadians at this time. None of our partners operate such flights, he said.

Canadians have been evacuated from Israel to following the Hamas attacks on October 7, and others were evacuated from Sudan last spring when fighting raged there.

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