France to evacuate vulnerable citizens from Haiti as unrest rages

Latin America & Caribbean  AP  Odelyn Joseph
© AP / Odelyn Joseph

France will provide special flights for its "most vulnerable" citizens to leave Haiti, the French foreign ministry said Sunday, after air links with Port-au-Prince were cut during political chaos.

"France's embassy in Port-au-Prince remains open and is still working despite the degraded conditions," the ministry told French news agency AFP in a statement.

It added that staff are "completely mobilised to support the French community on the ground".

Haiti's international airport has been closed since armed gangs attacked it earlier this month.

Around 1,100 French citizens live in Haiti – once a slave colony of France – many of them with dual nationality.

Paris said that its defence ministry would be responsible for organising the flights, which are set to begin on Sunday.

People who want to leave should contact the embassy in Port-au-Prince, the foreign ministry said, adding that it was not yet clear how many people would take up the offer.

Thousands flee gang violence

More than 33,000 people have fled Haiti's capital in around two weeks as armed gangs continue to pillage homes and attack institutions, according to a report this week from the UN's International Organisation for Migration.

The majority of those displaced have traveled to the south of Haiti.

United States authorities said they evacuated more than 130 US citizens out of Port-au-Prince between Wednesday and Friday, and nearly 100 others out of the coastal city of Cap-Haitien in northern Haiti since last Sunday.

Port-au-Prince remains gripped by the street battles that erupted late February, prompting the resignation earlier this month of prime minister Ariel Henry.

His departure, demanded by an alliance of gangs that now control most of the capital, has not lessened the violence.

The main port remains closed, and supplies of food and water are dwindling. 

Kenya, which had been due to lead an international peacekeeping mission to Haiti, says the deployment is on hold until a new administration is in place. 

Caribbean leaders are helping form a transitional council that will be responsible for choosing an interim prime minister and cabinet.

(with newswires)