Foreigners Stuck In Haiti As Blinken Flies To Jamaica For Urgent Talks.

Photo: Dr Keith Rowley’s Facebook page. Blinken is no stranger to CARICOM leaders and here he is seen at an earlier meeting in Trinidad. Today hte leaders are meetin in Jamaica to see what solutions they can offer for Haiti.
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Dozens of foreigners, including many from the United States and Canada, are stranded in Haiti, desperately trying to leave the anarchic violence-torn country where armed gangs are battling police and have already shut down both of the country’s international airports at Port au Prince and Cap-Haitien.

Are the land border crossings into the Dominican Republic open? A report from Barron’s this week suggests that the twice weekly cross-border markets in the northern Dominican Republic city of Djahabon are still open, but this crossing point is 200 km north of Port au Prince and the roads are dangerous and the approaches to the border are infested with armed gangs.

It is not clear whether the southern border point at Jimani is open, which is much closer to Port au Prince, but the same gang-infested conditions apply in southern Haiti, and it may not be possible for evacuees, whether Haitian or foreign, to safely approach the border crossing without coming under fire.

The US State Department is occupied with getting its own employees out of Haiti and has little in the way of help to offer its own civilians who find themselves in Haiti.

Foreigners in Haiti are there for various reasons ranging from adoptions to missionary and humanitarian work. Now, they are locked down in hotels and homes, unable to leave by air, sea or road as Haiti remains paralyzed by the mayhem and the gangs’ demands that Prime Minister Ariel Henry resign.

“We are seriously trapped,” said Richard Phillips, a 65-year-old from the Canadian capital, Ottawa, who has traveled to Haiti more than three dozen times to work on projects for the United Nations, USAID and now, a Haitian nonprofit called Papyrus.

After arriving in Haiti in late February, Phillips flew to the southern coastal city of Les Cayes to teach farmers and others how to operate and repair tractors, cultivators, planters and other machinery in an area known for its corn, rice, peas and beans.

Once his work was done, Phillips flew to the capital, Port-au-Prince, only to find that his flight had been canceled. He stayed at a nearby hotel, but the gunfire was relentless, so he moved on to a safer area.

“We are actually quite concerned about where this is going,” he told The Associated Press by phone. “If the police force collapses, there’s going to be anarchy in the streets, and we might be here a month or more.”

Scores of people have been killed in the gang attacks that began Feb. 29, and more than 15,000 people have been left homeless by the violence.

Haiti’s government extended a state of emergency and nightly curfew to try and quell the violence, but the attacks continue.

Gangs have burned police stations, released more than 4,000 inmates from Haiti’s two biggest prisons and attacked Port-au-Prince’s main airport, which remains closed. As a result, the prime minister has been unable to return home after a trip to Kenya to push for the U.N.-backed deployment of a police force from the East African country.

Phillips said he has exhausted all options to leave Haiti by air, noting that a helicopter operator couldn’t get insured for such a flight and a private plane pilot said that approach would be too risky. As for trying to trek to the neighboring Dominican Republic: “It’s possible we could walk miles and miles to get to a border, but I’m sure that’s dangerous as well.”

Despite being stuck, Phillips said he remains calm.

“I’ve been shot at many times in Haiti and have bullet holes in my truck,” he said. “Personally, I’m kind of used to it. But I’m sure other people, it’s quite traumatic for them.”

Yvonne Trimble, who has lived in Haiti for more than 40 years, is among the U.S. expats who can’t leave.

She and her husband are in the northern coastal city of Cap-Haitien, waiting for a private evacuation flight for missionaries that had already been canceled once.

“We’re completely locked down,” she said by phone. “This is the worst I’ve seen it. It’s total anarchy.”

Trimble noted how a mob surrounded the airport in Cap-Haitien recently and began throwing rocks and bottles following a rumor that the prime minister was going to land.

She and her husband are scheduled to fly out next week courtesy of Florida-based Missionary Flights International.

The company’s vice president of administration, Roger Sands, said Missionary Flights International has received up to 40 calls from people hoping to leave or remain on standby.

“We’re getting phone calls constantly,” he said. “The big concern is that every time people see an airplane, they think the prime minister is coming back to the country, and there’s a large segment of the society that doesn’t want that to happen. So, we don’t want to be the first ones in.”

It’s not clear when Haiti’s two international airports will reopen.

“This is difficult for us,” Sands said. “We hate seeing our planes on the ground when there’s need.”

Also unable to leave are Matt Prichard, a 35-year-old from Lebanon, Ohio, and his family. Prichard, COO of a missionary, has two children — an infant and toddler — with his Haitian wife, as well as an 18-year-old son.

The rest of his family hasn’t been able to get documents to enter the U.S. yet, so they will all stay in southern Haiti for now.

“We unfortunately seem to be stuck,” he said.

Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to Jamaica Monday morning to join Caribbean leaders in discussing a solution to the political violence in Haiti and the urgent provision of humanitarian aid to its people.

CARICOM said the talks will focus on both stabilizing Haiti’s security and addressing the urgent humanitarian needs, but how this can be done is anyone’s guess.

Sources: VOA. AP.



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