Travel Safe Summary – March 2019

Welcome to March

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 decided whether you need the services of an International Executive Close Protection Team or not, please do not hesitate to contact us at: Ares Risk Management.


~ SETTING THE SCENE FOR THE MARCH OUTLOOK ~

  • February saw a dangerous escalation between India and Pakistan.
  • In Yemen, the warring parties took a small step to cement a ceasefire in Hodeida, but a breakdown of talks could trigger new clashes.
  • Fighting in Libya’s south intensified and could worsen.
  • Chad called in French airstrikes to halt a rebel advance.
  • Al-Shabaab stepped up deadly attacks in Somalia.
  • In South Sudan, a government offensive against rebels in the south is picking up steam. Sudan’s President al-Bashir took a harder line against persistent protests.
  • Suspected jihadists stepped up attacks in Burkina Faso.
  • Violence escalated in Cameroon’s Anglophone region.
  • Angola’s separatists announced a return to arms.
  • In Nigeria, election-related violence rose and could flare again around polls to elect governors in March.
  • There are growing concerns around Ukraine’s upcoming presidential vote.
  • The confrontation hardened between Venezuelan President Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
  • In Haiti, anti-government protests turned violent.
  • S.-Russia relations deteriorated further in a worrying development for the future of arms control.

On a positive note:

  • Taliban and U.S. officials resumed talks on a deal for Afghanistan.
  • Negotiations aimed at ending the Western Sahara conflict are planned for March.
  • Nicaragua’s government resumed dialogue with opposition leaders, raising hopes for an end to the political crisis.

Weather Hazards

The UN issued a warning that 2019 has an 80% likelihood of being an El Nino year and that effects on global weather patterns are likely to be extreme. Heat waves and droughts are likely in some regions causing water shortages and putting pressure on food security, while in other regions seasonal storms are likely to be of higher intensity and severity. Please be sure to check your destination’s weather forecast prior to embarking on your business trip so that you can be prepared.

The Global weather outlook for March shows that the USA will continue to experience severe arctic weather across much of the USA with Tornado warnings in the following states: Alabama, Georgia and Florida. While in the UK another deep cyclone is expected in early march affecting Scotland and Northern Ireland. A deep trough/cyclone will bring much colder weather into Fennoscandia and Baltic region. Intense windstorms are forecast for Scandinavian regions.

When spring finally starts its arrival towards what looks like the end of this month, temperatures in the UK and Europe are likely to be higher than average.

The March 2019 Traveller’s Risk Summary

2019 Travellers Risk Legend

Africa

Africa - Mapping Crisis, Conflict & Risk

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.  

ADVICE:
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.

High Risk Area ANGOLA
Separatist militants in Angola’s Cabinda exclave announced they would resume their armed struggle.
Escalating Risk from High to Very High BURKINA FASO
Security in Burkina Faso continued to deteriorate as suspected jihadists increased attacks on civilians and security forces, especially in the north and east
Escalating Risk from High to Very High CAMEROON
In Cameroon’s Anglophone west, over 100 separatists, security personnel and civilians were killed and Boko Haram upped attacks in the Far North.
CHAD
Chadian rebels based in southern Libya launched an incursion into northeast Chad, their sights set on overturning Déby’s regime. At the government’s request, French airstrikes halted their advance.
Escalating Risk from High to Very High NIGERIA
Election-related violence rose around Nigeria’s polls leaving at least 40 dead, with a last-minute delay heightening tensions. President Buhari has won a second term, but his main challenger Atiku Abubakar rejected the result. With the political temperature still at boiling point, more violence could erupt around governorship polls set for 9 March.
SOMALIA
Al-Shabaab stepped up attacks in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu and rural areas, as more African Union troops pulled out.
SOUTH SUDAN
Despite an overall easing of South Sudan’s war, a government offensive against rebels in the south gained momentum and fighting could escalate in March.

Europe, Eastern Europe, Middle East & Far East

Mapping Risk, Crisis and conflict across Europe and the Middle East

Moderately High to High Risk USA – RUSSIAN RELATIONS
Deteriorating relations between the U.S. and Russia took a worrying turn as Washington announced it was suspending its obligations under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, raising concerns about the future of arms control.
High Risk Area UKRAINE
As Ukraine prepares for presidential elections in late March, an increasingly contentious campaign marked by allegations of irregularities and warnings of Russian interference prompted concerns over potential disputes around the result.
ARMENIA
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.

High Risk Area AZERBAIJAN
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
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.
LYBIA
Libya’s south saw heavy fighting as strongman Khalifa Haftar’s forces continued to consolidate control. Worse could follow in coming weeks if his move sparks a tribal war or if groups in the north allied with the Tripoli-based government retaliate.
SYRIA
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.

High Risk Area IRAN
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.
Escalating Risk from High to Very High IRAQ
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
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.
AFGANISTAN
While new talks between the Afghan 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.

PAKISTAN
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.
High Risk Area INDIA
In February terrorists carried out car bombings in Kashmir which resulted in 40 deaths, and it is likely that terrorists will try to carry out further 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
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.
UZBEKISTAN
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.

KYRGYZSTAN
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.

TAJIKISTAN
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.

Escalating Risk from High to Very High NORTH KOREA
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.
High Risk Area PHILLIPEANS
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.
High Risk Area TIMOR-LESTE
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.

High Risk Area 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 is 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.

America’s

VENEZUELA
Venezuela’s turmoil continued as the confrontation between President Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó – recognised by dozens of countries as the country’s interim president – hardened, and several people were killed in a standoff over deliveries of international humanitarian aid.
Escalating Risk from High to Very High COLUMBIA
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.
High Risk Area GUATEMALA
In Guatemala, the government stepped up its attacks on judicial institutions fighting corruption.
High Risk Area MEXICO
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 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.
EL SALVADOR
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.
High Risk Area HAITI
Violent anti-government protests swept Haiti, fuelled by anger over deteriorating economic conditions and a scandal involving embezzlement of public funds.
High Risk Area HONDURAS
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.

High Risk Area NICARAGUA
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.
High Risk Area EQUADOR
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.

High Risk Area PERU
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 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.

FRENCH GUIANA
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.

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