Canada on Monday began urgently removing Haitian nationals who want to leave the Caribbean country as gang violence spreads, prioritizing the most vulnerable, Canadian foreign minister Melanie Jolie said.

Hasty removals of foreign nationals are on the rise as the political future of the western hemisphere’s poorest state is uncertain and gangs are spreading their grip on the capital and beyond.

Escalating violence has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands more to flee their homes. A wave of attacks this month targeted police stations, the main port of Port-au-Prince and the international airport, leading to the suspension of commercial flights.

“We know that the security situation has worsened in recent weeks and those who wish to leave are unable to do so because of the security situation at the airport,” Canadian Foreign Minister Jolie explained during a press briefing.

Canadian authorities will initially facilitate the transfer to the neighboring Dominican Republic of the country’s most vulnerable nationals, especially those who need medical treatment or have children, Ms. Jolie explained.

About 30 Canadians “ready to travel,” meaning citizens who have the necessary documents in hand, have requested assistance to leave the country, according to Canadian authorities.

The Canadian government is working to find other options so that family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents of the country can also leave, according to the foreign ministry.

The US began evacuating its nationals from Haiti last week, using a chartered helicopter. The State Department announced that it planned to make three more flights yesterday Monday and four today.

Washington has facilitated the safe transfer of more than 340 US citizens out of Haiti since March 17 and is exploring alternative solutions to expedite the removal of others, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.