Haiti Travel Warning
Issued by US Department of State
Jan 28, 2009
The State Department warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Haiti and recommends deferring non-essential travel until further notice. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated April 30, 2008, and is being issued to remind American citizens of the destructive impact of a series of hurricanes in 2008, to provide updated information on country conditions, and to alert Americans to ongoing security concerns. Travelers are strongly advised to thoroughly consider the risks before traveling to Haiti and to take adequate precautions to ensure their safety if traveling to Haiti.
During the 2008 hurricane season, four tropical storms struck Haiti, which resulted in torrential rains, extensive flooding and mudslides, and hundreds of reported casualties. The lack of governmental infrastructure and rescue services combined with impassable roads and bridges severely hindered rescue and relief efforts. In late August and September 2008, heavy rains and gale-force winds from hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike pelted the country's coastline and interior causing heavy flooding and mudslides. In the aftermath of the storms, eight of the country's nine departments reported significant physical and economic devastation. The storm damage came on the heels of the civil unrest in April 2008. Conditions in Haiti may occasionally limit Embassy assistance to American citizens to emergency services.
In early April 2008, there were violent demonstrations, looting, transportation disruptions, and as many as seven reported deaths in Les Cayes and Port-au-Prince. Some American citizens were temporarily stranded in isolated locations and could not safely travel until calm was restored. The absence of an effective police force in many areas of Haiti means that, when protests take place, there is potential for looting, the erection of intermittent roadblocks set by armed protestors or by the police, and an increased possibility of random crime, including kidnapping, carjacking, home invasion, armed robbery and assault. Americans in Haiti should practice good personal security, take commonsense precautions and avoid any event where crowds may congregate. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn violent. Americans should closely monitor news media and the U.S. Embassy's website at: http://haiti.usembassy.gov/warden_information.html.
U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Haiti despite this warning are reminded that there also is a chronic danger of violent crime, especially kidnappings. Most kidnappings are criminal in nature, and the kidnappers make no distinctions of nationality, race, gender, or age. As of January 2009, 25 Americans were reported kidnapped in 2008. Most of the Americans were abducted in Port-au-Prince. Some kidnap victims have been killed, shot, sexually assaulted, or brutally abused. The lack of civil protections in Haiti, as well as the limited capability of local law enforcement to resolve kidnapping cases, further compounds the element of danger surrounding this trend.
Travel is always hazardous within Port-au-Prince. U.S. Embassy personnel are under an Embassy-imposed curfew and must remain in their homes or in U.S. government facilities during the curfew. Some areas are off-limits to Embassy staff after dark, including downtown Port-au-Prince. The Embassy restricts travel by its staff to some areas outside of Port-au-Prince because of the prevailing road and security conditions. This may constrain our ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside of Port-au-Prince. Demonstrations and violence may occasionally limit Embassy operations to emergency services, even within Port-au-Prince. The UN stabilization force (MINUSTAH) remains fully deployed and is assisting the government of Haiti in providing security.
The Department of State strongly advises U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Haiti to register either online at https://travelregistration.state.gov or with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. The Consular Section can be reached at (509) (2)229-8000 or e-mail address [email protected] Travelers should also consult the Department of State's latest Country Specific Information for Haiti and the Worldwide Caution at http://travel.state.gov. American citizens also may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States.