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Canada's Haiti airlift expands to include relatives, residents and charter flight

Darpan News Desk The Canadian Press, 01 Apr, 2024 12:05 PM
  • Canada's Haiti airlift expands to include relatives, residents and charter flight

Canada is expanding its evacuation of citizens from Haiti to include relatives and Canadian permanent residents, starting Wednesday if conditions allow.

The government has also arranged for a charter flight for Canadians who pay a market rate to fly between the Dominican Republic and Montreal.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced a week ago that Canada was airlifting people with valid Canadian passports from Haiti to the Dominican Republic, and Ottawa says 153 have since left.

At the time, Joly said Ottawa was pressing the Dominican Republic to allow permanent residents of Canada aboard those helicopter flights, as well as the foreign relatives of Canadians.

Global Affairs Canada has since registered an uptick in Canadians seeking help getting out of Haiti, as hopes for a lull in widespread violence have given way to gang-fuelled chaos.

A week ago, 300 people had sought help, but another 200 have since asked to be part of the evacuations from the Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.

Those who qualify as eligible relatives of citizens or permanent residents for the airlift include spouses, common-law partners and dependent children.

The Caribbean country has faced a political and humanitarian crisis since mid-2021, and gangs have perpetrated brazen violence across the country while limiting access to food and essentials.

The situation got even worse last month when progress toward a foreign military intervention prompted gangs to release prisoners and shut down Haiti's main airport.

As of Monday, 3,110 people with a connection to Canada had voluntarily registered their presence in Haiti with Ottawa.

The NDP had been calling on the Liberals to launch a family-reunification program for relatives of Canadians who live in Haiti and are at extreme risk of violence.

Asked about that proposal last week, Immigration Minister Marc Miller noted Ottawa committed a year ago to welcome 15,000 migrants on a humanitarian basis from the Western Hemisphere. That change was announced alongside the closure of an increasingly popular route for people crossing from the U.S. to claim asylum in Canada.

"We are also focused on getting the people out that we undertook as part of our commitment," he said, noting "several thousand" are sponsored by Haitian Canadians.

"This is a situation that we are monitoring very closely, and always I think Canadians can expect their governments to show a very humanitarian face to this conflict."

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