United Nations orders evacuation of all non-essential international workers from Haiti, citing ongoing violence that left workers vulnerable to kidnappings and attacks last week on UN-supported food warehouses across the country .
The evacuation order comes two months after the UN Security Council voted to extend the mandate of its Integrated Office in Haiti by one year and increase its staff, and ahead of a meeting on Monday on the situation in Haiti. The United States is proposing a resolution that would establish a new framework for sanctioning Haiti’s gang leaders, as well as those who provide funding and weapons to gangs.
In a statement Friday, Gilles Michaud, UN under-secretary-general for safety and security, cited a revised security risk for Haiti in endorsing the recommendation allowing employees to return to their home countries.
Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary General António Guterres, confirmed the order to the Miami Herald but did not specify the number of employees affected.
Dujarric said the United Nations system in Haiti has prioritized its support for the government to provide “vital activities.”
“To this end, the UN personnel required on the ground to carry out these activities remain in country, while others will work remotely,” he said. “The United Nations system is closely monitoring developments and preparing its surge capacity for possible increased humanitarian needs.
Even before this week, Haiti’s security crisis worried international observers. Brazil’s permanent representative to the UN Security Council, for example, told colleagues in June that he hoped to arrange a visit to the country in July, but had decided to wait because of the conditions. of security in Haiti and the “insufficient resources” of the United Nations Integrated Office. to ensure mission security.
At the time, the UN confirmed that two of its collaborators had been kidnapped.
The United States, which warned American citizens last fall to leave Haiti as the country’s security crisis worsened, has been operating with a reduced embassy staff for several years. In July 2018, the United States authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and their families. Since then, the embassy has been operating with a reduced staff, which, combined with gang violence and the COVID-19 pandemic, has resulted in a delay in processing visa applications of at least a year.
The violence has only worsened since then. For weeks, Haiti has seen unprecedented levels of violence amid public protests across the country against the government and rising food and fuel prices. In many cases, the protests turned violent when mobs, led by heavily armed individuals, burned down private property, ransacked hospitals and banks and looted charity warehouses, many of which are supported or run by the UN.
Following the violence, Haitians and foreigners were forced to shelter in place. Embassies announced the temporary closures as protesters erected flaming barricades to block streets and pelted their building with rocks.
As the United Nations General Assembly kicked off on Friday, Dujarric told reporters that many UN-backed organizations “have been directly targeted by looters” during the recent violent protests, which began after the government announced a hike in the price of gasoline, propane and diesel in an effort to cut $400 million in fuel subsidies and crack down on the black market.
At least two United Nations World Food Program warehouses, one in the city of Les Cayes and the other in Gonaïves, were looted and the establishment’s offices in Gonaïves were set on fire.
“As the unrest continues in Haiti, the Secretary-General condemns the violence in all its forms observed in the country in recent weeks and calls on all actors to work together to de-escalate the situation and ensure a return to calm,” said Dujarric. .
This story was originally published September 23, 2022 8:07 p.m.