US citizens urged to leave Haiti

The State Department on Wednesday urged all U.S. citizens in Haiti to leave the country on commercial flights, amid deepening political strife and economic disarray.

"Widespread fuel shortages may limit essential services in an emergency, including access to banks, money transfers, urgent medical care, internet and telecommunications, and public and private transportation options," reads a warning from the State Department.

The statement added that the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince "is unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Haiti with departure if commercial options become unavailable."

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The warning to U.S. citizens comes as the Biden administration has expelled more than 8,500 Haitians from the United States to Haiti since September, without allowing them to claim asylum.

In August, the Biden administration also tripled the number of Haitian beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status, raising to around 150,000 the number of Haitians who are allowed to work and live in the United States because of the ongoing crisis in their country.

Still, the warning for U.S. citizens to leave Haiti is the latest sign that the Biden administration is not confident conditions will improve in the short term in the Caribbean nation.

The Associated Press first reported the State Department's security alert, adding that it's unclear how many Americans live in Haiti.

The country's political instability was aggravated by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July but had been brewing during Moïse's term in office, to the point where Moïse was essentially ruling by decree.

The political vacuum and lingering corruption among the country's officials have fostered an environment where criminal gangs run rampant, carrying out kidnappings and hijackings that further destabilize the country's economy.

According to the AP, Defense Minister Enold Joseph said authorities are investigating the disappearance of 30 fuel tankers while acknowledging the existence of a black market for gasoline.

The fuel shortage threatens transportation, medical care and even the country's water supply, which depends on generators, reported the AP.