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US sending aid to Haiti, restricting visas in ‘all-hands’ response for help


Overview:

State Department takes delegation to Haiti, works with UN members, and initiates new visa policy to resolve humanitarian and security issues

The United States restricted visas of those who fund and encourage violence in Haiti through Haiti’s gangs and stepped up efforts to provide security and humanitarian assistance, State Department officials said during an Oct. 12 media briefing. 

The U.S. is preventing active and former Haitian government officials, other individuals and their immediate families involved in the support or operation of criminal street gangs, using the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act. Officials did not name the specific people as U.S. visa records are confidential.

The U.S. is also deploying a Coast Guard ship to patrol offshore Port-au-Prince at the request of the Government of Haiti, the agency said.

“Look, bottom line, Haiti matters,” a spokesperson for the State Department said. 

“The President of the United States, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State are very focused on Haiti,” he said. “We are focused on avoiding the mistakes of the past, but right now, really, the focus is on the humanitarian and health security situation, immediate measures that we are taking to hold those accountable that are behind a lot of the gang and security activity.”

The U.S. will also increase additional security and humanitarian assistance to support the cholera, health and welfare response — including bleach, cholera kits, water jugs, oral rehydration salts, and other supplies.

Haiti began experiencing a cholera outbreak in early October, two weeks after gangs blockade of fuel at the port “locked down” the country already suffering from rampant violence and multiple, intertwined crises. Haiti’s government requested international assistance last week. 

The actions come after an interagency delegation, headed by Brian A. Nichols, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, met in Haiti Tuesday in response to Haiti’s government request for international assistance. The delegation also met with the Montana Group, private sector leaders and civil society groups to assess how the U.S. can continue to assist and promote accountability for criminal acts. 

The hope is to encourage those leaders tasked with charting a “Haitian vision” to find agreement, according to senior administration officials.

Earlier in the month, the U.S. also drafted with Mexico details proposing specific sanctions and security steps to enable the U.N. Security Council to address the many challenges facing the people of Haiti.  

The U.S. is ensuring, according to senior administration officials, that they have an “all-hands-on-deck approach — not just USAID but, obviously, Department of Defense, Coast Guard, and others that have provided support to Haiti,” one senior administration official said, according to a briefing transcript.

The help request and visit to Haiti follow the OAS General Assembly held in Lima, Peru last week. There, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken co-chaired a meeting with Canada and Haiti focused on how best to respond to the needs of the Haitian people, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. Henry’s request for assistance came on the heels of that meeting.

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