Welcome to February
Ares Risk Management is here to help and support the travelling business community, keep you and your personnel safe while travelling – especially if your business takes you to some of the worlds at risk, crisis or conflict zones.
Before our Travel Trends & Risk Report, we’d like to remind you that when travelling abroad, even to countries which are considered “safe”, we live in a dangerous world. While conflict or terror attacks might not be prevalent in the country or city you are visiting, all countries and cities suffer from crime. Be aware of the types of crime you might encounter. We would also like to remind you that the weather may cause disruption to your travel plans. We also advise that you consider health issues and ensure that you are immunised (if need be) prior to travelling.
It is also worth noting that some over the counter and prescription medications which a legal and freely accessible in the UK and Europe might be considered contraband in other countries so please be sure that you are aware of the issues you may face when travelling abroad!
If you are travelling at any time this year and would like a more detailed country and regional risk assessment before deciding whether you need the services of an International Executive Close Protection Team please do not hesitate to contact us at:
Ares Risk Management.
~ SETTING THE SCENE FOR FEBRUARY’S OUTLOOK ~
Travellers to the following states within the USA should be aware of the Serious Extreme Weather Warning as brutal winter storms hit North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, New York, Washington, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Southern states of Alabama and Mississippi have declared a state of emergency. The cause of this brutal storm is a polar vortex that is sweeping the USA. Temperatures in the past week dropped to -53C, in some areas and so far 12-cold-related deaths have been reported. These below freezing temperatures pose serious health threats including frostbite within 10 minutes of exposure and hypothermia. The level of cold and depth of snow has already disrupted airports with flight cancellations. If you are planning a trip to the USA, during February be sure to check the weather as the long-range weather forecast for the USA predicts a bitterly cold and extended winter, with weather situations not improving till the middle of March at the earliest.
In terms of global conflict and crisis zones; thousands of protestors marched in anti-government demonstrations, leading to clashes with the police where three people were killed in Omduraman, Sudan. The reason for the demonstrations has been the economic crisis which has reached a tipping point, with the civilian population being pushed to the edge. As there are no “quick fixes” to the economic situation it is reasonable to assume that demonstrations, clashes with the police and more deaths are likely as we move into February.
In Burkina Faso, ethnic clashes in response to a suspected jihadist attack killed nearly 50 people in the central-northern region. Burkina authorities must now address three interconnected layers of violence linked to terrorism, deep anti-government discontent and rising ethnic tensions. The country is currently in a declared state of emergency, as the likelihood of ongoing violence has yet to be abated.
In Kenya, Al-Shabaab militants killed at least 21 civilians in an attack on a Nairobi hotel and office complex. says Al-Shabaab chose a target in Kenya’s capital surrounded by Western embassies because previous attacks concentrated in Kenya’s northern counties have not yielded the attention it normally craves, therefore it is reasonable to assume an escalation in terror plots in areas frequented by western visitors.
In Lybia, a four-month-old UN ceasefire in Tripoli broke down after clashes erupted between rival armed groups. Continued instability in the capital is likely to hinder any progress toward a political settlement and will most likely delay UN efforts to host a national conference with rival Libyan groups.
Violent protests across Zimbabwe were met with a repressive clampdown this week, with many shots, assaulted or detained. The Zimbabwe government blames the opposition, NGOs and foreign backers for orchestrating the unrest, but a massive fuel price hike and accelerated deterioration of economic and social conditions have catalysed anti-government sentiment.
In the Central African Republic, the government and fourteen armed groups began negotiations in Khartoum this week against a backdrop of lethal clashes and a worsening humanitarian situation. Based on the track record of previous negotiations and the failure by the government and tribal groups to enforce negotiated agreements, while there is a reason to hope that this time things might be different, the reality would suggest that lethal clashes and a continued worsening of the humanitarian situation is likely to prevail.
The Israel / Iran crisis deepened with Israeli daylight missile strikes, hitting Iranian military targets in Syria; sending a clear message to Iran, that Israel’s resolve has not diminished following President Trump’s announcement to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.
South Sudan, Ugandan government forces deployed in South Sudan’s restive Central Equatoria region amid a heavy military build-up from the South Sudanese government. Hostilities have been escalating between Juba and armed groups that remain outside of the peace deal, and signs suggest a new offensive has already commenced.
The February 2019 Traveller’s Risk Summary
As you can see from the map of Africa, many nations within the continent are experiencing challenges which could pose risks to a range of Western travellers visiting the continent.
The security environment in many African countries is at best precarious and in some fast deteriorating. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.
Caught between escalating insurgent violence and widespread social discontent.
Islamist insurrection led by the militant group Ansarul Islam continues to exact a heavy toll on government forces in the country’s north. A second hotspot emerged in the east, which suffered a series of attacks by perpetrators are as yet unknown, and another group, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), which is active across the Sahel, has perpetrated attacks in the capital Ouagadougou and elsewhere.
While the Boko Haram insurgency is on the wane in the Lake Chad basin, it continues to carry out attacks against civilian and military targets in Cameroon’s Far North. The war so far has killed 2,000 Cameroonians, displaced 170,000 and triggered the rise of vigilante self-defence groups. Meanwhile, Cameroon’s Anglophone region has experienced violent flare-ups as the central government represses dissent over the perceived marginalisation of the English-speaking minority. Cameroon on our 2019 Global Crisis watch list and is at risk of sliding into a major destabilising conflict which will not only affect Cameroon but is likely to spill into neighbouring countries.
|The CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Resurgent armed groups in the Central African Republic are killing many civilians and causing widespread displacement. Government forces and the UN are in a weak position, and there are no quick solutions. Peace negotiations which started in the last week of January, stalled on the 31st January, therefore it is likely that a return to the violence will ensue.
|The DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC of CONGO
The latest twist in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s tortuous electoral saga may well be it's most worrying and dangerous yet. On 26 December, the Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) announced that parts of North Kivu province in eastern Congo and Mai Ndombe province in western Congo would not vote until March, after the presidential result is announced and a new leader was sworn in on 19 January 2019. As expected with more than 1.25 million votes will be left disenfranchise and create a situation of escalating demonstrations and violence.
Mali has faced a volatile crisis as political armed groups, including ethnic-based movements, jihadist groups and transnational criminal networks, fight for hegemony and the control of trafficking routes in the North. Jihadist violence against security forces is increasing and militants have gone rural to capitalise on local conflicts and the absence of the State to secure safe havens and new recruits. Mali’s instability has regional consequences as violent extremism spills into neighbouring countries. The country has been in a State of Emergency since October 2015, and the “Emergency” status has been extended to October 2019.
Al-Shabaab militants killed at least 21 civilians in an attack on a Nairobi hotel and office complex. In mid-January 2019. Al-Shabaab chose a target in Kenya’s capital surrounded by Western embassies because previous attacks concentrated in Kenya’s northern counties have not yielded the attention it normally craves, therefore it is reasonable to assume an escalation in terror plots in areas frequented by western visitors, could escalate in February and beyond.
Meanwhile, in Libya, the Islamic State’s attack on the foreign ministry in Tripoli underscored the hazardous security environment hampering reunification of rival state institutions.
The primacy given to military responses and the use of community-based armed groups to combat jihadist movements in the border area between Niger and Mali has only increased inter-community tensions. The establishment of jihadist groups in the region, as local branches of ISIS, results from the recent instability in Mali but also from the slow deterioration of the security situation in this border area.
Somalia recently emerged from a long and difficult election process that resulted in the sizeable election victory of President Mohammed Abdullahi "Farmajo". The rare moment of unity, however, has been offset by attacks in Mogadishu and rural areas carried out by al-Qaeda’s franchise Al-Shabaab. The risk of famine also looms large over the country, in part driven by drought and clan-based conflict.
Since fighting erupted in Juba in July 2016 and a major rebel faction returned to war and rebel groups have proliferated. 2019 has commenced in an atmosphere of growing regional unrest. The fragile peace deal brokered between the warring parties in South Sudan, the peace deal has not won a broader political settlement. The government’s current strategy can secure Juba but cannot deliver sustainable nationwide peace. Added to this millions are experiencing hunger due to the conflict’s impact on civilians, and recent reports (week ending 1st Feb 2019) of hostilities escalating along the border with Uganda between Juba and other armed groups which remain outside the peace deal.
Europe, Eastern Europe, Middle East & Far East
The war between Russia and Ukraine has been ongoing for the past four years and there is seemingly no end in sight. Sparked by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its subsequent support for separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, it also fuels the wider geopolitical standoff between Russia and Western powers. The latest flashpoint is the Sea of Azov, where in November Russian and Ukrainian vessels clashed and Russia effectively blocked access to the Kerch Strait, at the mouth of the sea. The confrontation suggests that neither side sees any advantage in compromising.
Visitors are advised against all travel to within 5km of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Tavush and Gegharkunik regions, and along the M16/H26 road between the towns of Ijevan and Noyemberyan.
Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh continue. The border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is closed. Several ceasefire violations along the Line of Contact separating the opposing forces and elsewhere on the inter-state border between Azerbaijan and Armenia took place in 2018, resulting in a number of deaths and casualties.
Although there has been no recent history of terror attacks these cannot be ruled out, be aware that protests and demonstrations in the cities are common and you should take care, monitor the media and avoid large crowds and demonstrations.
Tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh continue. There have been several ceasefire violations along the Line of Contact separating the opposing forces and elsewhere. There is also a heightened risk of random terrorist activity.
Lebanon is a highly volatile region with a high likelihood of terror attacks throughout the region. In addition, there are criminal gangs operating in parts of the Bekka, especially northern Bekka, involved in drug cultivation and smuggling. Recent protests against the UN have turned violent, and there are unexploded ordnance and landmines in many areas. Some area’s significantly more dangerous, such as Palestinian Refugee camps and the border regions with Syria and Hermel Area, including the towns of Arsal, Ras Baalbek, Qaa, Laboué and Nahlé.
The security situation can deteriorate very quickly and conflict with Israel can spark very quickly. Be aware that there has been a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation.
The situation remains extremely volatile and dangerous. High levels of violence persist throughout Syria, including full scale military operations involving the use of small arms, tanks, artillery and aircraft. A number of chemical weapons attacks have taken place across Syria. Estimates suggest that over 470,000 people have been killed in the Syria conflict, including over 55,000 children.
The Syrian regime does not exercise control of significant parts of Syria, notably in the north, south and east of the country. A small area of eastern Syria remains under the effective control of Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL), which is fiercely hostile to the United Kingdom.
Terrorists are highly likely to continue. Past attacks have been across Syria and have left large numbers of people dead or wounded. There is also a high threat of kidnapping of UK and Western nationals. There is NO UK Embassy presence in Syria.
There is a risk that British nationals, and a higher risk that British/Iranian dual nationals, could be arbitrarily detained in Iran. All British nationals should consider carefully the risks of travelling to Iran. The Iranian authorities don’t recognise dual nationality for Iranian citizens. Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Iran. Attacks could happen anywhere, including in places visited by foreigners.
Iran is a Muslim country in which Islamic law is strictly enforced. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend.
There is a risk of terrorist attacks and kidnap across the country. Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Iraq. There’s also a high kidnap threat. While attacks can take place at any time, there’s a heightened threat during religious or public holidays.
Areas liberated from Daesh are likely to contain remnants of war and improvised explosive devices.
The security situation throughout Iraq remains uncertain and could deteriorate quickly, often with very little warning.
Yemen remains very tense and unstable and the security situation throughout the country is dangerous and in some areas, it is unclear which faction has control. In addition to ongoing fighting, there’s a threat of terrorist attacks, kidnap and unlawful detention against foreigners from terrorist groups, local militia, armed tribesmen and criminal groups that have the intent and capability to carry out such acts.
Fighting continues across the country, which has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis and damaged key infrastructure. Access to food, clean water, fuel and medical supplies is difficult throughout Yemen. There is a high risk of being caught in indiscriminate gunfire or shelling.
While new talks between the Afghani Government and Taliban are due to commence this month, the security situation in Afghanistan is highly dangerous and volatile. If you must travel to Afghanistan, travel by road throughout the country, but particularly outside the capital Kabul, is extremely dangerous. Seek professional security advice for all travel and consider using armoured vehicles.
Hotels and guesthouses used by foreign nationals and the government of Afghanistan are subject to regular threats. Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Afghanistan. Specific methods of attack are evolving and increasing in sophistication and focused on targeting foreign nationals.
There is a high threat of kidnapping throughout the country. Recent kidnappings have ended in the murder of those individuals that were kidnapped.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Pakistan. There’s a high threat of terrorism, kidnap and sectarian violence throughout the country, including the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi. You should be vigilant, avoid all crowds, public events, political gatherings, religious processions and sporting events.
Foreigners, in particular, Westerners, may be directly targeted. Densely populated unsecured areas, such as markets, shopping malls, restaurants and places where westerners and the Pakistani elite are known to congregate, are potential focal points for attacks.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in India. Recent attacks have targeted public places including those visited by foreigners. There have been recent media reports suggesting Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) may have an interest in attacking targets in India. There may be an increased threat to places visited by British nationals such as religious sites, markets, festival venues and beaches.
Visitors to India should avoid protests and large gatherings. Stampedes have occurred during some events with large crowds, including at political rallies and religious gatherings, resulting in deaths and injuries.
Bangladesh has been in a state of turmoil since the run-up to the national elections in December 2018, added to which there has been the ongoing refugee crisis of Rohingya refugees entering the country from Burma.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Bangladesh. The threat extends across the country.
From 1 February 2019, if you have a British Citizen passport you will be able to enter Uzbekistan as a visitor for stays of up to 30 days without a visa.
Air quality in the Karakalpakstan and Khorezm regions has deteriorated as a result of storms over the Aral Sea bringing salt, dust and pollutants into the air.
You can be detained on arrival for the possession of certain medicines, including codeine. You should always carry a doctor’s prescription with you.
Terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan can’t be ruled out and border regions Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan are potential flashpoints. Be aware that borders can be closed with no notice.
Terrorist attacks in Kyrgyzstan can’t be ruled out. You should be vigilant in public places and follow security advice from the local authorities.
The Kyrgyz/Uzbek and Kyrgyz/Tajik borders are subject to closure without notice. There have been a number of security incidents in the Kyrgyz/Uzbek border region in recent months.
There is a high risk of earthquakes.
Terrorists are likely to try and carry out attacks in Tajikistan. Tourists have been known to have been targeted for deliberate attack, particularly on hiking and cycling tracks around the countryside, 4 were killed in deliberately targeted attacks in 2018.
There are regular clashes between the Taliban and Afghan government forces in north-east Afghanistan close to the border with Tajikistan. This border is also used by drug smugglers who often engage in armed clashes with Tajik security forces.
Tourism, health and transport infrastructure is poor and travel requires careful planning. Avoid off-road areas immediately adjoining the Afghan, Uzbek and Kyrgyz borders, which may be mined.
The level of tension on the Korean Peninsula is volatile, and tensions escalate during South Koreans-US military exercises; notably, these are conducted in the Spring and Autumn annually. While daily life in the capital city Pyongyang may appear calm, the security situation in North Korea can change with little notice and with no advance warning of possible actions by the North Korean authorities. This poses significant risks to British visitors and residents.
Following the 21 January plebiscite endorsing the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a cathedral bombing in Sulu province that killed at least 22 soldiers and civilians. There are multiple actors have the capacity for such an attack and the bombing serves as a reminder that spoilers have haunted every major stride in the 40-year peace process.
Since the 2018 elections, the government is now largely stable, however further violence is possible. You should avoid rallies, demonstrations and protests as the security situation could deteriorate without warning.
Crime continues to be a problem in East Timor (Timor-Leste), including gang-related violence, robbery (in some cases armed), assault and attacks on vehicles.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Timor-Leste, attacks can’t be ruled out.
The tropical cyclone season in Timor-Leste normally runs from November to April.
|PAPUA NEW GUINEA
There has been significantly increased levels of tribal fighting in the Hela and Southern Highlands provinces, leading to a declaration of states of emergency by the Papua New Guinea government. There has also been heavier than usual tribal fighting in Enga and Western Highlands provinces. If you’re planning to travel to these provinces, you should take greater care than usual and consider enhanced security precautions.
Outbreaks of tribal violence may occur with little warning and may escalate very quickly. You should avoid large crowds and public gatherings as they may turn violent.
Monsoon season in Papua New Guinea runs from November to May. The 2019 forecast is for heavy rain and strong winds, with heightened potential for flooding and landslides.
There is a high level of serious and violent crime. Law and order are poor or very poor in many parts of the country. Pay close attention to your personal security, particularly after dark, and monitor the media for possible new security risks.
Carjacking is an ever-present threat, particularly in Port Moresby and Lae. Lock car doors and keep windows up at all times. If possible travel in convoy or with a security escort after dark.
A dangerous new phase opened in Venezuela’s crisis as new opposition leader Juan Guaidó claimed the role of interim president in a head-on confrontation with President Maduro, backed by mass anti-government protests and support from the U.S. and most major regional players, with China and Russia among those backing Maduro. Much rides on whether or not the opposition succeeds in provoking splits in the military and government; failure could unleash greater repression and violence, and even outside military intervention.
The Colombian government ended peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group after a car bomb attack in Bogotá killed 21 police, prompting fears of a return to open conflict and more violence along the border with Venezuela and Pacific Coast.
In Guatemala, the government stepped up its attacks on judicial institutions fighting corruption.
There are currently large numbers of migrants moving en masse from Honduras through Guatemala to Mexico and beyond. This is having an impact on border crossings.
There have been a number of reported shooting incidents and other incidents of violence in the main tourist destinations, including in locations popular with tourists. There is currently an increased police presence in the Cancun area, including in the hotel zone. While tourists have not been the target of such incidents, anyone in the vicinity of an incident could be affected.
The security situation can pose a risk for foreigners. Be alert to the existence of street crime as well as a more serious violent crime like robbery, assault and vehicle hijacking. In certain parts of Mexico, you should take particular care to avoid being caught up in drug-related violence between criminal groups.
Most visits to El Salvador are trouble-free. However, El Salvador has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America so you should take extra care. Take particular care in downtown San Salvador and on roads outside major towns and cities, especially at night. Avoid wearing expensive jewellery or displaying valuable items. Safeguard your passport, mobile phone and cash against pickpockets.
More recently there has also been an increase in typhoid and hepatitis A. You should avoid bathing in or drinking from any rivers.
There’s no British Embassy in Honduras. Consular support may be limited in Honduras, with the exception of Tegucigalpa and the Bay Islands, and severely limited in more remote areas.
There are currently large numbers of migrants moving en masse from Honduras through Guatemala to Mexico and beyond. This is having an impact on border crossings.
Demonstrations can occur throughout Honduras, often with little or no notice. If you’re travelling in Honduras, you should remain vigilant and avoid all demonstrations. In the event of unrest, have a contingency plan to make changes to your travel plans at short notice, and be aware that airlines sometimes modify their schedules at short notice.
You are advised against all but essential travel to Nicaragua, as There has been a prolonged period of political unrest and street violence in many areas in Nicaragua since mid-April 2018. In the early months of the crisis, this involved the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition, resulting in many serious injuries and 300 deaths.
Violence and disorder can flare up with no-notice and at any time. It is also against Nicaraguan immigration law for foreigners to involve themselves in local politics, and you may put yourself at risk of arrest if taking part in protests or breaches of the peace. Crime has also risen quite significantly since the protests began.
The security situation in the province of Esmeraldas can change very quickly. If you’re undertaking essential travel in areas of the province beyond the 20km exclusion zone, you should pay close attention to warnings issued by the Ecuadorean authorities.
Although Ecuador doesn’t have a history of terrorism, in 2018 there have been a number of bomb explosions and kidnappings in the northern province of Esmeraldas.
Ecuador is situated in an area of intense seismic activity. There is a high risk of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. You should make sure you are aware of the risks and are familiar with the relevant safety and evacuation procedures.
Cases of armed robbery are increasing and petty crime is common.
The rainy season in Peru runs from November to April. It can rain and snow heavily in the Andes and there have been occasions of torrential rains in some parts of the country; causing flooding, landslides and mudslides.
Demonstrations are common in Peru and can turn violent quickly. There may be a higher risk to your safety in areas where there is organised crime and terrorism linked to the production of drugs.
There’s a risk of robbery by bogus taxi drivers, especially to and from the airports and at bus terminals.
Driving standards are poor. Crashes resulting in death and injury occur frequently.
The rainy season in French Guiana, during which tropical storms may occur, takes place between December and July.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in French Guiana, attacks can’t be ruled out. Crime levels are low, but serious crime does occur.