Despite civil unrest in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien over the weekend after the Haitian government announced sharp increases in gasoline prices, both Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield and Bahamas Ambassador to Haiti Jeffrey Williams said yesterday that there is no immediate danger and no need to evacuate Bahamians.
Demonstrators used burning tires and barricades to block major streets.
As of Friday, at least three people were killed.
“Our information is that there are seven Bahamians [known to the government] in that part of Haiti, three of whom are embassy staff,” Henfield told The Nassau Guardian.
“…The mood [on Sunday] seems to be a little less pensive than [it was] the day before and [Saturday] I think. My understanding… is things have quieted a bit and they are secure within their residences, which is in a very secure area.
“They feel that things have quieted a bit but they have been advised that there are still pockets of insurrection in certain areas, the continued car burnings, tire burnings and that kind of thing, those small, minor kind of disturbances.
“So they are secure in their homes and they are advised to stay off the street until things calm further.”
Bahamasair has cancelled all flights into Haiti.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Bahamasair advised, “All flights into Haiti have been temporarily suspended to ensure the safety of our passengers and crew.
“Bahamasair will continue to monitor the situation closely and will liaise with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for further updates on the situation in Haiti.
“The airline will only resume service once we are satisfied that there will be no threat to our passengers or our staff.”
Asked if there are plans for evacuation, Henfield said yesterday, “We are not of the view now generally.
“The ambassador is not of the view that evacuation is necessary at the moment.”
He said if there is a need to evacuate the government would ensure that Bahamians are not at risk.
When he spoke with The Nassau Guardian, Williams said he and embassy staff felt safe.
“We look out here and we see everything seems calm and we don’t see any protests and we feel safe,” he said.
“We don’t see an immediate threat.”
Williams said the only problem they faced was on Friday when it took longer for them to get home because the roads were barricaded by protesters.
He said there were at least three barricades every 500 feet from the embassy to where he lives.
“When I say barricades, what they were like is that they were boulders, huge rocks in the road, blocking the road, and huge rocks on each side of the road and in the middle of it there were tires and they were burning the tires,” Williams said.
“It was like Robin Hood, where you go and pay a tax and they let you go through.”
He said when the embassy office closes at 5 p.m. it usually takes him ten minutes to arrive at home, however he did not arrive until 9:30 p.m.
“I am recommending that we stay until further notice,” he said. “We haven’t seen any reason to be recalled or to evacuate. We don’t have any compelling reason to evacuate.”
Henfield also noted that the government is concerned that when there is instability in Haiti it leads to more boats sailing to The Bahamas.
He noted that the prime minister has alerted the defense force and immigration department to step up their interdiction efforts, in the event that there is an influx as a result of what is going on in Haiti.
“So we are on guard, we are on watch, we are monitoring it very carefully, we are talking with our counterparts in the United States and we are feeling okay that our people are secure and safe,” he said.
“We are also of the mind that the defense force, immigration and the police are on watch.
“We’ve also asked the wider Bahamian boating community, if you are out there and you see something, say something so that we can help to keep The Bahamas secure.”
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications