Canada maintains warning to travellers to Haiti
A young boy carries a few belongings he was able to salvage following a massive fire at Port Market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. (AP / Dieu Nalio Chery)
Published Saturday, December 29, 2012 7:04AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, December 29, 2012 5:03PM EST
Canada’s Foreign Affairs department continues to warn Canadians that they should exercise caution if travelling to Haiti. But the department is not going as far as the United States State Department, which recently toughened its warning to American travellers.
On Friday, the U.S. State Department issued an updated warning, stating that "no one is safe" from kidnapping and violent crime in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince. It also highlighted the risks from robbery, lawlessness, cholera and poor medical facilities.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs does not have a similar countrywide advisory in place. But it says Canadians should exercise a "high degree of caution" in Haiti, particularly in the capital.
It advises against “non-essential travel” to a number of Port-au-Prince neighbourhoods, “as the security situation is particularly unstable and dangerous,” it says.
"Criminal activity is especially evident in large centres such as downtown Port-au-Prince, where armed gangs continue to operate. Many gang leaders escaped from the national penitentiary during the January 2010 earthquake and are still at large," its advisory reads.
Foreign Affairs also says those attending National Carnival celebrations in February in the northern city of Cap-Haitien should be particularly vigilant about their safety.
The U.S. State Department, in its revised warning, said that in recent months, travellers arriving in Port-au-Prince on flights from the United States have been attacked and robbed after leaving the airport
It also noted that at least two U.S. citizens have been killed in robbery and kidnapping incidents this year.
"U.S. citizens have been victims of violent crime, including murder and kidnapping, predominantly in the Port-au-Prince area. No one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender, or age," the department said.
"…Haitian authorities have limited capacity to deter or investigate such violent acts, or prosecute perpetrators," the department said.
The State Department added that cholera persists in many areas of Haiti, and medical facilities, including ambulance services, are weak.
"Thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Haiti each year, but the poor state of Haiti's emergency response network should be carefully considered when planning travel,” the department said.
“Travellers to Haiti are encouraged to use organizations that have solid infrastructure, evacuation, and medical support options in place," the department said.