As Haiti descends further into chaos, State Department tells Americans to leave now

U.S. citizens in Haiti are being urged to get out. The State Department on Wednesday said given the spiraling violence and infrastructure challenges, American citizens should depart Haiti as soon as possible via commercial or private flights.

The warning comes a month after the State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel and their eligible family members from Haiti. At that time, too, U.S. citizens were urged to get out.

Since then, the situation has worsened, with human rights groups recording new deaths in Port-au-Prince and the Artibonite Valley, and the displacement of thousands due to escalating violence by armed groups. The new alert on Wednesday is yet another sign of how quickly security is deteriorating, especially in neighborhoods of the capital that are increasingly being overtaken by gangs.

On Monday, residents in Tabarre, site of the U.S. Embassy, awakened to heavy gunfire with residents saying “it sounded like a war zone.” In a notice, employees at the U.S. mission were warned to remain on the compound of the embassy and nearby residential housing until further notice. They were also prohibited from traveling between the two. Others were told to “avoid the area of the U.S. Embassy and residential compounds.”

That same day, Haiti National Police Director Frantz Elbé announced that specialized units were being mobilized to help rid areas of gangs. He lauded recent police successes in Carrefour Feuilles, a hilltop community near downtown Port-au-Prince that has been under nonstop attack since mid-August.

But on Tuesday, police suffered a blow. Armed bandits with the Grand Ravine gang set fire to a police substation in Savane Pistache, a neighborhood of Carrefour Feuilles.

Despite the security situation, the Biden administration continues to deport Haitians back to the country. Immigration advocates said they received word that 66 Haitian nationals were scheduled to be returned on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement flight to Port-au-Prince on Thursday.

Since October, the United States and the head of the United Nations have been trying to get a country to lead a multinational force into Haiti to help police quell the violence. Last week, a delegation from Kenya visited Port-au-Prince but so far no official announcement has been made about whether that country will go ahead with an offer to help.

Residents flee their homes to escape clashes between armed gangs in the Carrefour-Feuilles district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023.
Residents flee their homes to escape clashes between armed gangs in the Carrefour-Feuilles district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023.

The United Nations has said that more than 2,400 Haitians have been killed this year by gang violence, and 900 others have been kidnapped. The recent gang attacks have also forced the displacement of at least 5,000 people from Carrefour Feuilles, which, if controlled by gangs, will provide access to other middle-class communities, creating a new kidnapping route for gangs.

In ordering U.S. citizens to leave, the State Department warned that flights out of Haiti will fill up quickly and travelers may have to book flights several days or even weeks in advance of departure.

Major U.S. carriers to Haiti, including American Airlines, have severely cut back flights in recent months and ticket prices, even with advanced purchase, have soared. Passengers are being charged $2,000 or more for a one-way economy class ticket out of Port-au-Prince.