The United Nations is ordering the evacuation of all non-essential international workers from Haiti, citing ongoing violence that left workers vulnerable to kidnappings and attacks on UN-backed food warehouses across the country last week.
The evacuation order comes two months after the UN Security Council voted to extend the mandate of the integrated office in Haiti for a year and increase its workforce, and ahead of a meeting Monday on the situation in Haiti. The United States has tabled a resolution that would create a new framework for punishing Haiti’s gang leaders, as well as those who provide funding and weapons to gangs.
In a communiqué Friday, Gilles Michaud, UN Undersecretary General for Safety and Security, cited a revised security risk to Haiti in approving the recommendation to allow workers to return to their home countries.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, confirmed the order to the Miami Herald, but did not say how many employees are involved.
Dujarric said the UN system in Haiti has prioritized its support for the government to provide “life-saving activities”.
“Therefore, the UN personnel needed on the ground to carry out these activities will remain in the country, while others will work remotely,” he said. “The United Nations system is closely monitoring the evolving situation and preparing its strong capacity for potentially greater humanitarian needs.”
Before this week, the security crisis in Haiti was worrying international observers. For example, Brazil’s permanent representative to the UN Security Council told his colleagues in June that he had hoped to organize a visit to the country in July, but that he decided against it due to the security conditions in Haiti and the “insufficient resources of the United Nations Integrated Office”. to ensure the security of the mission.”
At the time, the UN had confirmed that two of its staffers had been kidnapped.
The United States, which last fall warned American citizens to leave Haiti as the country’s security crisis worsened, has been working with fewer embassy staff for several years now. In July 2018, the US authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency workers and their families. Since then, the embassy has been working with fewer staff, which, combined with the gang violence and the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to a visa application backlog of at least a year.
The violence has only gotten worse since then. For weeks, Haiti has seen unprecedented levels of violence amid public demonstrations across the country against the government and rising food and fuel prices. In many cases, the demonstrations have turned violent as mobs, led by heavily armed individuals, set fire to private property, ransacked hospitals and banks, and looted charity warehouses, many of which were supported or operated by the UN.
In the wake of the violence, Haitians and foreigners have been forced to take shelter on the spot. Embassies announced the temporary closures as protesters erected fiery barricades to block streets and pelted their buildings with stones.
As the UN General Assembly kicked off on Friday, Dujarric told reporters that many UN-backed organizations are “directly targeted by looters” during the recent violent protests, which began after the government hiked the price of gas, propane and diesel in Europe. an effort to cut $400 million in fuel subsidies and crack down on the black market.
At least two warehouses belonging to the UN World Food Program, one in the town of Les Cayes and the other in Gonaïves, were looted and the offices of the facility in Gonaïves were set on fire.
“As the unrest in Haiti continues, the Secretary General condemns the violence in all forms we have witnessed in recent weeks and calls on all actors to work together to de-escalate the situation and ensure a return to calm said Dujarric.