Updated Mar 21, 2024 - World

Hundreds of Americans appeal to State Department to help them leave Haiti

People fleeing a protest in Port-au-Prince on March 12.

People fleeing a protest in Port-au-Prince on March 12. Photo: Guerinault Louis/Anadolu via Getty Images

The State Department is trying to help hundreds of U.S. citizens leave Haiti, after months of political instability erupted into violence earlier this month.

Why it matters: Gang-fueled political violence has escalated in recent weeks, exacerbating one of the world's most severe humanitarian crises, with roughly 5.5 million people requiring humanitarian aid.

  • Coordinated attacks across the country's capital, Port-au-Prince, resulted in the closure of Haiti's only international airport earlier this month.

The latest: Deputy State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said on Wednesday the U.S. government began organizing chartered helicopter flights from Port-au-Prince to the Dominican Republic.

  • For security reasons, he did not specify how many people would be on the flights, but he said they would continue depending on demand, the situation on the ground and the reliability of commercial transportation.
  • "Our hope is to keep these options available for American citizens who need it," Patel said.

About 1,600 people have filled out a crisis intake form, Patel said, meaning some are seeking help or need assistance leaving Haiti.

  • Patel specified at a press conference Tuesday that not all who filled out the form are seeking help.
  • "Some just want to stay in touch with the embassy," he said. "Some just want to see what information we have to share with them, advice on how they may be able to remain safely, and to potentially stay in touch if they choose to potentially depart in the future."

Zoom out: Limited flights have since begun leaving from Cap-Haïtien, but seats are hard to come by, according to a security alert from the State Department.

  • Americans are discouraged from making the trip overland to the city, located over 120 miles from Port-au-Prince, unless they can reach Cap-Haïtien safely.
  • The first charter flight from Haiti organized by the State Department landed in Miami on Sunday with over 30 U.S. citizens on board.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Haiti said on Wednesday it's coordinating flights for Americans through "non-commercial means."
  • Sunrise Airways said on Tuesday that it will operate special flights from Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, to Miami on March 25.

The big picture: The State Department has issued a "do not travel" advisory for Haiti and has urged American citizens to leave the country due to the violence.

Go deeper: What to know about the crisis in Haiti

Editor's note: This story was updated with new comments from a State Department spokesperson.

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