The Canadian government is urging its nationals to stay away from Haiti citing violent criminal attacks in the capital since mid-August 2020.
In a travel advisory, Ottawa said that these violent incidents have resulted in deaths and injuries and as a result “the Haitian national police may increase its presence in an attempt to respond to the climate of insecurity in the capital.
“If you are in Port-au-Prince, remain vigilant at all times, follow the advice of local authorities. The security situation is unpredictable. The number of violent incidents, including attacks, armed robberies and kidnappings, have increased since December 2019, both in Port-au-Prince and in other provincial towns.”
Canada said that the crime rates in the country are “especially high in large centres such as downtown Port-au-Prince, where armed gangs operate, as well as near the border with the Dominican Republic, where criminal activities are widespread.
“Criminality also increases in the period leading up to the holiday season, Carnival and the beginning of the school year.”
The Canadian government said that armed robberies occur regularly in Pétion-Ville and that “in most cases, victims are attacked in broad daylight by armed thieves on motorcycles.
“There has been a recent increase in attacks, particularly against motorists. They usually occur in traffic jams during peak hours,” the advisory warned, adding that in Petit-Goâve, criminal gangs have committed robberies by erecting roadblocks.
The advisory also noted that criminals operate at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport, including acts of distracting foreigners to steal their passports.
“Be cautious when claiming your luggage upon arrival. Keep your valuables and identification on you. Have your local contacts arrange for your pick-up from the airport. Carry only small amounts of cash. Do not resist if you are threatened by robbers. Be extremely vigilant when leaving the airport.”
Canada is urging its nationals on a visit to Haiti to keep a low profile since foreigners are viewed as wealthy and may arouse envy.
“Avoid showing visible signs of affluence, such as expensive-looking jewelry or electronic equipment. Be cautious when photographing scenes in poor or urban areas, where people may feel exploited or insulted by being subjects of such activities. Obtain permission before photographing individuals.”
The travel advisory also noted that members of the general Haitian population, regardless of rank or social class, are at risk of being kidnapped.
“Although rare, there have been kidnappings involving Canadians and other foreign nationals, including missionaries, aid workers and children. Most victims have been released upon the payment of a ransom. In some exceptional cases, however, victims have disappeared or have been killed.”
It said that due to the ongoing political instability, violent protests and civil unrest could occur and result in the setup of roadblocks across the country.
“Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place.”
Earlier this week, the Bishops of the Haitian Episcopal Conference said the assassination of the President of the Port-Au Prince Bar Association, Monferrier Dorva, underscores the security situation in the country.
In a statement, the religious group said security has become deleterious in Haiti where gang violence is practiced with impunity.
“Against this endemic insecurity generated by the violence of the gangs which undermine the country, sowing death and mourning among the inhabitants, targeted assassinations of this type are increasing worryingly,” the Bishops said, recalling that in January and June 2020, the United Nations office in Haiti noted that at least 159 people had been killed and 92 others injured due to gang violence.