UNSTABLE: PM orders all diplomatic staff in Haiti to return home

UNSTABLE: PM orders all diplomatic staff in Haiti to return home

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Philip Davis has ordered the involuntary departure of all diplomatic personnel from Haiti after a team was stopped by Haitian police yesterday and stripped of their vehicle and weapons.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) also reported that five Bahamians from Bahamasair were unable to leave the airport area as security conditions deteriorate amid ongoing protests by the Haitian National Police.

Bahamas Embassy Chargè Commander Godfrey Rolle

According to news reports, Haitian police officers are protesting the recent killing of officers by armed gangs. The rebel officers reportedly targeted Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s official residence and the airport on Thursday.

All diplomatic personnel have been ordered to leave immediately or as soon as security conditions permit.

“This morning the Chargè reported that they had been stopped by Haitian police and relieved of their vehicle and weapons,” the MOFA statement read.

“This is part of a protest by the Haitian National Police against their own authorities. All of our diplomats are personally safe. There also is a report of 5 Bahamians from Bahamasair who landed at Port Au Prince Airport and were unable to leave the environs of the airport. They are all safe and well.”

The statement read: “The security situation appears less stable over the past three days in the country, and we are taking steps out of an abundance of caution.”

There are 11 local staff and six diplomatic staff members at the embassy, including Chargé Commander Godfrey Rolle.

Security at the Bahamas’ Embassy in Haiti was set to be increased last year with additional Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers and more weapons following the kidnapping of a local worker.

The woman employee had gone out to the ATM and was kidnapped as she arrived home sometime around 6am on September 1. The ministry reported she was released weeks later on September 23.

At the time, Rolle told Eyewitness News while there were some security concerns it would be “foolhardy” to shutter the embassy given the critical need to interact with Haitian authorities on the ground.

In its statement yesterday, MOFA explained the new return order was only a temporary measure in light of new developments.

“Up to this time, there was a voluntary departure order in place and all staff at the embassy chose to stay,” the statement read.

“Per the new instructions, they are to leave for home as soon as conditions permit. This is only a temporary measure in light of recent developments which require a corporate security and intelligence assessment and restaging.

The statement read: “The pattern of security concerns is one of ebb and flow and these withdrawals are sometimes necessary to regroup. The Security Forces in our country have been alerted to these developments. As soon as conditions permit a team will be sent back to Haiti without further announcement.”

At a regional meeting in Argentina, Prime Minister Philip Davis warned leaders the crisis in Haiti poses substantial threats to The Bahamas and neighboring countries due to the significant increase in “irregular and often dangerous” migration.

About Ava Turnquest

Ava Turnquest is the head of the Digital Department at Eyewitness News. Her most notable beat coverage spans but is not limited to politics, immigration and human rights, with a focus especially on minority groups. In 2018, she was nominated by the Bahamas Press Club for “The Eric Wilmott Award for Investigative Journalism”. Ava is deeply motivated by her passion about the role of fourth estate, and uses her pen to inform, educate and sensitize the public.