Canada warns its citizens to avoid travelling to some parts of Haitian capital

Posted by hougansydney.com on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 Under: Security
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The Canadian government has updated its travel advisory for Haiti, warning Canadian citizens to avoid non-essential visits to parts of the capital Port-au-Prince.

"Be very cautious in Haiti because of high crime rates in various parts of the country and persistent political tensions.

Avoid non-essential travel in the neighborhoods of Martissant, Carrefour, Bel Air and Cité Soleil, in the Port-au-Prince region, as the security situation is particularly unstable and dangerous.

These areas continue to be dangerous due to criminal activity and the local authorities' lack of capacity to ensure order. Personal safety and a police presence are not guaranteed. The police are unable to respond in a timely manner to calls for assistance in these areas. It is strongly advised to avoid going out after nightfall.

It is imperative that Canadians who must travel to these areas take appropriate security precautions. Ensure that family members, friends, colleagues, local business representatives or organizations know when to expect you so they can meet you as soon as you arrive at the airport or border, and can guide you in your travels. The use of public transport of any kind is not recommended. As the security situation can change at any moment, check with the organizations, institutes or hosts that are taking care of you to receive the latest updates on the region to which you are travelling.

Crime

Crime rates are high and the security situation is unpredictable. Remain extremely vigilant wherever you are in the country. Criminal activity is especially prevalent in large centres such as downtown Port-au-Prince, where armed gangs continue to operate. There have been reports of murders, kidnappings, armed robbery, burglary and carjacking, even in daylight hours.

There is usually an increase in criminality in the period leading up to the holiday season, the Carnival and the beginning of the school year.

Many incidents of armed robbery, including against Canadians, have occurred in the Péguyville neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince. In most cases, the victims were driving, in broad daylight and were attacked by armed thieves on motorcycles. The police’s capacity to intervene and control this increase in crime is limited. Be vigilant at all times when moving about in Péguyville.

Avoid showing visible signs of affluence, such as expensive-looking jewellery or electronic equipment. Foreigners, including Canadians, are viewed as wealthy. Remain cautious with new acquaintances offering friendship or hospitality.Never walk alone and avoid travelling after nightfall.

Be cautious when claiming your luggage upon arrival at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince as thieves try to distract foreigners in order to steal their passports. Keep your valuables and identification on your person (in a pouch under your clothing, for example).

Armed robbers sometimes target travellers, particularly foreigners of Haitian origin, after they have arrived at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport. In most cases, the victims’ vehicles are followed by criminals on motorcycles. To minimize the risk of violence, you should have your local contacts arrange for your pick-up from the airport, carry only small amounts of cash and not resist if you are threatened by robbers. Be extremely vigilant when leaving the airport.

A large number of gang leaders and offenders detained at the Croix-des-Bouquets civil penitentiary (east of Port-au-Prince) escaped in 2014 and are still at large.

Exercise a high degree of caution when travelling near the border area with the Dominican Republic due to high levels of criminal activity.

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.

Remain alert to small groups of loiterers, especially near your residence. Keep doors and windows secure at all times. Instruct domestic staff to permit only pre-authorized visitors whose identities have been verified into your home. Keep all visitors under close scrutiny.

Keep windows closed and doors locked when travelling by car. There have been several recent reports of violent incidents along Route Nationale 2, between the area of Petit‑Goâve (Ouest Department) and Miragoane (Nippes Department). Criminal gangs have committed robberies by erecting roadblocks. If you have to travel through this area, remain extremely vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.

Be cautious when using automated banking machines, and do so only during business hours inside a bank. It is advisable to deal directly with a teller. Avoid carrying large sums of money and be vigilant when entering or leaving a bank, as criminals could be watching and could attempt to rob you as you leave.

Avoid photographing individuals without first obtaining their permission. Be cautious when photographing scenes in poor or urban areas, where people may feel exploited or insulted by being subjects of such activities.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations, political rallies and roadblocks occur regularly and have sometimes led to incidents of violence, particularly in Port-au-Prince and on main highways such as Route Nationale 2 in the vicinity of Petit-Goave (Ouest Department). Movement may be restricted and local transportation services may be disrupted. Remain vigilant at all times and avoid large crowds and demonstrations as they may turn violent with little to no warning. Monitor local media to stay informed of the latest developments. Assistance to individuals from Haitian authorities is often unavailable.

Road safety

Roads are narrow and poorly maintained. Most vehicles are in poor condition. The few traffic lights that are operational are mostly in urban centres. Traffic signs are rare. Driving at night or in bad weather should be avoided, even in the city. Streets are rarely lit, and vehicles being driven with their lights off are common. Vehicles are often abandoned on or beside the road. Many people drive while intoxicated and do not follow the rules of the road.

Since there are frequent disruptions of fuel supplies, fuel tanks should always be kept at least half full.

Because of a lack of police and roadside assistance services, you should carry a cell phone and a list of emergency contact numbers. However, cell phone coverage is intermittent in some rural areas.

Public transportation

Avoid all public transportation, especially shared taxis (“tap-taps”) and buses. Drivers do not always follow the rules of the road and their vehicles are sometimes in poor condition or overloaded, which often leads to serious accidents involving injuries and sometimes death.

Marine transportation

Ferry accidents sometimes occur due to overloading and poor maintenance of some vessels. Do not board vessels that appear overloaded or unseaworthy.



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