Haiti Bans Charter Flights To Nicaragua In Blow To Migrants Fleeing Poverty, Violence

(AP) — Haiti’s government has banned all charter flights to Nicaragua that migrants fleeing poverty and violence had been increasingly using in their quest to reach the United States, according to a bulletin issued Monday.

Haiti’s government did not provide an explanation for the decision in its bulletin, which was first reported by The Miami Herald. Civil aviation authorities in Haiti did not respond to a message seeking comment.

The move left a couple of thousand angry and bewildered travellers stranded in a parking lot facing Haiti’s main international airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince surrounded by their luggage, with some holding babies.

Among them stranded was Jean Erode Louis-Saint, 25, whose flight was scheduled for mid-afternoon Monday but never received a boarding pass.

“Can you imagine that I spent all this money? I sold everything that I had,” he said. “I cannot stay in this country because of the lack of security. Gangs are everywhere.”

He used to work along the border that Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic exchanging currencies, but has struggled to find another job.

“I cannot do anything in Haiti anymore,” he said as he stood with a backpack on his back surrounded by thousands of other passengers.

More than 260 flights departing Haiti and believed to have carried up to 31,000 migrants have landed in the Central American country of Nicaragua since early August as Haiti’s crisis deepens, with gangs estimated to now control up to 80 per cent of Port-au-Prince. The number of migrants represent nearly 60 per cent of all US-Mexico border Haitian arrivals, said Manuel Orozco, director of the migration, remittances and development programme at the Inter-American Dialogue.

Experts have said that seats on charter flights to Nicaragua can range from $3,000 to $5,000, with Nicaragua a popular destination because it does not require visas for certain migrants.

“The magnitude of the flights are just completely unusual … and it represents a security risk,” Orozco said in a phone interview.

He questioned whether the suspension of the charter flights was prompted by outside pressure, adding that he did not know if the US government was involved.

Orozco noted that there were no charter flights from Port-au-Prince to Nicaragua last January and that the three daily flights that began in late July had grown to 11 flights a day.

The suspension of charter flights could prompt Haitian migrants to seek other ways to flee their country, he said.

“I think Dominicans will probably at this point organise themselves or cross their fingers that there is not a cross-over,” Orozco said.

The two countries share the island of Hispaniola, but are now in a dispute over construction of a canal in Haiti that would divert water from a river that runs along the border. Dominican President Luis Abinader announced last month that his government would stop issuing visas to Haitians and he closed the border to all Haitians seeking to cross for work, education, medical issues or other purposes.