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Conducting complex evacuations from Haiti during civil unrest

On 29 February, 2024, a wave of gang violence broke out across Haiti while the Haitian Prime Minister, Ariel Henry (also acting as President) travelled to Kenya and signed an Agreement designed to circumvent the Kenyan High Court's earlier ruling declaring the UN-backed operation to assist the Haitian Government as unconstitutional under Kenyan law.

Gunfire was directed at the International Airport in Port-au-Prince, as well as at many businesses and international organisations. Two main police stations were siezed by armed gangs, airlines ceased operations, and gang leader, Jimmy (Barbeque) Cherizier, released a video stating that he intended to prevent Ariel Henry from returning to Haiti.

On 2 and 3 of March, gangs stormed two large prisons resulting in almost 5,000 prisoners from escaping. As a result, police were quickly undermanned and outgunned, and many went into hiding. The country spiralled further into civil unrest and thousands of international citizens were trapped in its borders.

Inherent Risks had been monitoring the situation on-the-ground from the beginning of the unrest, and had been liaising with Lloyd's and company market insurers to communicate with policyholders who were trapped in the country.

With airspace in Haiti restricted, and border crossings into the Dominican Republic closed, evacuation options were limited.

"Emergency evacuations from any country are complex. To ensure success, it's imperative to slow the whole process down. Initially, the primary mission is to move people at risk temporarily to a safer place to protect them. This then provides much needed time to assess the situation, and options available." said Dan Kaine, Managing Partner of Inherent Risks

While Port-au-Prince was effectively under gang rule, with gunshots and explosions being heard throughout the city, other regions of the country were relatively safe and blissfully unaware of the new wave of violence in the capital.

Inherent Risks retained consultants' on-the-ground were able to evacuate an initial group of Missionaries, by road, from Port-au-Prince to a hotel which had been assessed as a safe haven. A route was planned, and thirty minutes before the mission commenced, a local driver followed the route reporting to the security team that there were no road blocks and signalled for the mission to commence.

Once the Missionaries reached the hotel, they were briefed not to post on social media, and not to reveal their location to anybody for operational security reasons.

Upon identifying and verifying a trusted route, the security team quickly assembled an international humanitarian organisation who were trapped in their compound. This mission had the added complexity that there was a road block between their compound and the trusted route by road. This meant that the security consultants' had to leave their vehicles, make their way on foot to the compound, and guide the group over ground covering 1km to the waiting vehicles.

Over a period of three-days, Inherent Risks coordinated the local evacuation of a total of 17 missionaries, humanitarians and journalists, to safe havens inside Haiti.

"It's important to note that the Dominican Republic government warned all helicopter providers registered in their country not to fly into Haiti, and if they defied this order they would face severe legal consequences. This limited the available evacuation options further."

Inherent Risks were able to identify two viable options for evacuation out of Haiti. The first, by boat. The second, by road to a waiting helicopter owned and flown by a HNWI client at the Haitian border.

On 13 March, Inherent Risks - Managing Partner posted a 'Flash Alert' on LinkedIn as a Situation Report, and to confirm the safe evacuation of our clients. This resulted in several international assistance companies, and other organisations, with people stranded to request our assistance.

A helicopter coordinated by Inherent Risks on 13 March from the border, en-route to Dominican Republic.

Over the following eight-days, Inherent Risks assisted four international assistance companies, and three global organisations, to safely evacuate a total of 29 further people from Haiti.

The situation on-the-ground was made more complex and frustrating by erroneus information being posted online by so-called security professionals who were falsely claiming they had conducted helicopter evacuations. One company went as far as to say that "two operatives parachuted in at night and are on the ground assessing options." While we cannot confirm if this is true or not, it is highly unlikely.

"At Inherent Risks, we are well versed in responding to crises. Unfortunately it has become necessary for us to to add 'dispelling misinformation online' to our procedures. Not only does it give false hope to those people who are stranded and scared, it's irresponsible and dangerous. Those who do it, and it's typically the same people and companies, do it in the hope of making a quick buck from desperate people, or gaining false pretence kudos. Either way, it's a predatory practice that needs to be stamped out." Added Dan Kaine.

On the 20 March, the United States Department of State commenced helicopter evacuations (pictured above) from Port-au-Prince for its citizens. Until that point, they had been stranded, with limited food and water, for a total of 22-days.

Many of the up to 2,000 foreign citizens who were stranded for over 30-days have since reported limited to no communication from their Governments'. This, and many civil unrest and natural disaster events over the past 24-months, highlight the importance of travelling with the right insurance policy, with an assistance and response company who have the experience, capabilities and networks to respond.

If you would like to speak to an insurance broker to assess your requirements, please contact us for a referral.

Inherent Risks are continuing to assist insurers and loss adjusters to trace insured assets, including armoured vehicles, communications equipment and aid stores, to assess their status, and recover them where possible.


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