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If there’s a country that has mystified travelers for years, it’s Mexico. The Latin country is steeped in culture, beautiful white beaches, and tantalizing cuisines.
Mexico is also famous for something else: Crime.
The North American country is a hotbed for gang-related violence, drug cartels, and kidnappings.
In January 2022, two Canadian nationals were killed at a Mexican beach resort after a shoot-out erupted. In a separate incident, a gay couple from Texas was tortured, shot, and their bodies dismembered before being disposed of in garbage bags off the highway outside the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez.
Despite these highlighted murders, the number of kidnappings for ransom has risen dramatically since the onset of the pandemic. This article looks at the number of Americans kidnapped in Mexico from 2021 to date and what to do to avoid becoming the next target.
The abduction of American nationals is a recurring security issue in Mexico. In 2021, there were 625 reported kidnappings, down from 831 cases the previous year. It is estimated that 300-400 cases involve Americans, most of whom are Green Card holders and dual citizens.
Our security experts believe the number could be higher since most kidnappings involving US nationals go unreported. Most companies would rather not acknowledge that a staff member was kidnapped to avoid dealing with the ensuing reputational risk.
The kidnapping issue in Mexico is fueled largely by America’s insatiable drug demand. Criminal organizations in the Latin American country rely on extensive personnel and massive collections of assault rifles and an assortment of firearms, most of which originate from the US. Members of these drug cartels Mexico use these weapons to defend their “plazas” from the Mexican police, military, and rival gangs. A plaza is a strategic point along the narcotics supply chain.
From around 2006, these criminal gangs began to use kidnappings as a means to fund those drug-related activities. The ransom money they would get from desperate families became a lucrative source of income for these drug cartels. The drug dealers acquired transferable skills during their day-to-day work that could be used to perpetrate kidnappings.
In the 90s, most kidnapping gangs comprised active and retired law enforcement officers. Their main targets were Mexico’s business class’s political elite and affluent citizens. When Alfredo Harp Helu was kidnapped in 1994 and held hostage for 106 days, the family of the Mexican entrepreneur paid $30 million to secure his release. Helu was the owner of Banamex, the largest Mexican and Latin bank, which Citigroup later acquired.
Despite the apparent success of this kidnapping-for-ransom episode, many criminal groups at the time did not buy into it. For most of them, the inherent risks, police attention, and media publicity they attracted did not justify the payoff.
As a result, in the early 2000s, criminal gangs began to target middle and lower-class citizens. While they earned less per victim, they could carry out more kidnappings without attracting police or media attention.
Cartel kidnapping techniques also evolved. Gangs now carried out “secuestro exprés” (express kidnappings) where they would hold victims for short durations in exchange for smaller sums of money. In many cases, the cost of ransom is as low as $500.
According to data from the National Institute for Statistics and Geography in Mexico, express kidnappings now account for 66% of all reported kidnapping crimes in the country. The apparent “democratization” of kidnapping meant that it wasn’t only the elite who were targeted. Middle and lower-class citizens also became targets.
The Mexican government recently announced that the number of drug-related cartel murders in the country had declined by 3.6%, down from the 33,739 cases reported the previous year. Despite this marginal improvement, crime in Mexico is an epidemic that’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Mexican cartel kidnappings were bad enough when they were perpetrated by a handful of these criminal organizations 20 years ago. Most of these gangs have since splintered into several groups, all vying for a slice of the drug pie.
The proliferation of these gangs also means that these criminal enterprises have more costs to meet and, therefore, require more funding. The domino effect is that the number of kidnappings for ransom has also increased.
Another reason for the rising number of criminal groups in Mexico was the aggressive security policies instituted by the country’s former president Felipe Calderon. These policies, dubbed the “Kingpin Strategy,” were aimed at arresting various leaders of the drug cartels, disrupting what used to be a somewhat peaceful balance of power among the more established criminal organizations.
The Mexico cartel map 2022 is similar to its 2021 counterpart. The areas with more than five major cartels present have a higher risk of kidnapping than those with fewer cartels.
The authorities have been largely unsuccessful in their efforts to curb the rising kidnapping cases in the country. A large part of this failure can be attributed to the high levels of official corruption in Mexico government. Police officers are often involved in these kidnappings either by getting a cut from the drug cartels to “look the other way” or working in collaboration with criminal gangs.
According to a study conducted by the National Commission on Human Rights in Mexico, 85-95% of the surveyed respondents believe that the vast majority of officers in the Mexican police force are corrupt.
As a result, kidnapping perpetrators feel that the odds of police officers bringing them to book for their crimes are slim to none. Less than 2% of all kidnappers are arrested and convicted for their crimes. Those odds serve as a big incentive for members of criminal gangs to carry out kidnappings for ransom.
In March 2017, Mexican customs officials stationed in Naco, Sonora, watched as a man emerged from the trunk of a white sedan. His hands and feet were shackled, and his mouth was taped shut. The man walked over to the customs officers and begged for their help.
Meanwhile, 54-year-old Roxanne Carpenter, the driver of the white sedan, was completely oblivious to the fact that her captive had escaped. She drove a couple of hundred yards south of the US-Mexico border to a plaza where she planned to collect 30-pounds of marijuana from members of the Mexican drug cartel. The drugs were a bounty for turning over the man they had been trying to track down.
When the cartel members discovered that the wanted man was not in the vehicle’s trunk, they returned the car to Ms. Carpenter and instructed her to run. FBI agents caught up with her a few hours later as she crossed the border into Naco, Arizona. It later emerged that Carpenter, alias “Rocky,” was not acting alone. While she was the mastermind of the entire plan, she recruited her friends to help her execute her plan.
Rocky charged 23-year-old Fausto Velazquez with negotiating the bounty with the cartel members. 40-year-old Brian Meyers, a friend of the victim, was supposed to lure him to the car, while 29-year-old Phoelix Begay was supposed to be the “muscle” in the entire plan.
In the initial plan, they negotiated for a $37,000 bounty. The cartel countered that offer with a truck. However, since it would be impossible to split the truck among them, they settled for 30 pounds of marijuana instead. While the negotiations were going on, the victim lay handcuffed and shackled in the trunk of the car.
Carpenter was sentenced to serve 14 years behind bars in federal prison.
In March 2022, four women who were kidnapped and decapitated by a rival drug cartel had their deaths filmed for their families to watch in horror. The four captives, members of the Gulf Cartel, were captured by a rival gang Los Zetas while on a drug delivery assignment.
Zetas members rounded up the women and slit their throats before beheading them on camera as a warning to the Gulf Cartel.
Despite the rampant threats in Mexico, corporate America continues to do business there. This state of affairs is not likely to change any time soon, given the lucrative opportunities present there. If you intend to travel to Mexico for work or leisure, you can take some steps to protect yourself and reduce your kidnapping risk.
If you’re looking to do business in Mexico, you need to vet your local partner thoroughly and take the necessary steps to ensure their premises are secure. It’s also good to be aware of the country’s anti-bribery and anti-corruption legislation.
Go further and research the city and hotel you’ll be staying at. How many active cartels are there in that part of the country? Has the hotel in question had any security incidents in the recent past? How did management deal with them? This information will help you make an informed decision on how you wish to proceed with making decisions for your business operations in Mexico.
Foreign businesses should be looking at implementing executive protection details for their personnel who travel to Mexico on business. If you need help figuring out what you need or conducting an assessment of the area where you intend to do business, Hyperion security advisors can help you with a free assessment.
If you’re traveling to a tourist destination like Cancun and don’t have a personal protection detail, don’t be tempted to leave the safety of the resort you’re staying in to explore the city. That’s where danger lurks.
In the unfortunate event that you get kidnapped, you want to be adequately prepared. You want professionals on stand-by to rescue you and negotiate your ransom. Preparation, in this case, involves ensuring that you are adequately indemnified and financially insulated from this event.
As a rule, no one should ever travel to Mexico solo, especially female executives. Companies should institute a two-man travel rule for staff members going to Mexico on business. If you’re going for leisure, it doesn’t hurt to tag a friend or partner along on your trip.
You need to be aware of the risk that comes with flying and parking a private jet at a Mexican airport and implement appropriate security measures. Cartel spotters exist at all private terminals throughout Mexico and information about your jet’s tail number can be used to track your whereabouts, putting you in danger.
While flying commercial versus private doesn’t eliminate your threat of being kidnapped, it can at least reduce the threat. And if flying by private jet is an absolute must, then you should absolutely hire a security detail that has prior experience operating in Mexico in kidnap prevention operations.
Rather than walk off the plane and hail a taxi at the airport, it is always safer to arrange for transportation ahead of time through a reputable, well-known company. Alternatively, if you hire a security detail, a security driver should be transporting you during each of your movements while in-country.
There’s a lot of corruption in the country’s transportation sector. Taxi drivers have been known to scout for vulnerable tourists and tip off the cartel for a potential kidnapping target. If your company often sends executives to Mexico for business, you might want to rethink the existing policies on using taxis or ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber.
Even Airbnb owners may collude with gang members to get you kidnapped. Staying at a well-known resort would be your best bet.
Companies must go above and beyond their standard duty of care obligations and institute real policies detailing what to do in kidnapping or any other crisis before it happens. Employees need adequate training on travel security protocols, situational awareness, and response plans. They also need to be briefed on the importance of maintaining a high level of readiness and constant communications.
Traveling to Mexico isn’t as simple as, “I’ve got insurance, so I’m good to go.” If that’s the case, don’t get on that plane.
You need to have a solid plan in place that addresses concerns like: What if I’m kidnapped? What if my loved ones can’t afford the ransom? Who’s going to rescue me if the cartel takes me hostage?
Private hostage rescue services exist for that very reason. Most people cannot afford such services which can start at $30,000 per day.
Instead of being reactive, we highly recommend being proactive by hiring a skilled security detail, especially for those who face a higher risk of being kidnapped. Costs for such elite executive protection services are far less than the cost of a hostage rescue operation, not to mention the avoidance of the life-long trauma associated with being taken hostage. If you’re heading to Mexico, get in touch with us today for a free security assessment.
With the global community becoming more accessible than it was in the past, business opportunities on a global scale have become more prevalent. This may require that you travel, work, and even live in areas that would be considered high-risk.
If this is your first time venturing into such territory, you may not recognize the risks you face, especially in areas with alarmingly high cases of violent crime. Lucky for you, we’re experts in that field. Here’s everything you need to know about international travel safety when traveling to risk-prone areas.
The first aspect of travel safety that many first-time international travelers often overlook is getting specialized training in situational awareness. This is particularly important if you’re traveling to a high-risk location with the very real threat of kidnapping, car-jacking, robbery, cartel violence, and other types of violent crime.
The best way to prepare for a trip to a hostile environment is to first understand what kind of risks you face and then equip yourself with the tools you need to deal with these challenges if you ever find yourself in life-threatening situations. Top private security firms usually offer this kind of training. Make a point to enroll in a Situational Awareness Training course before you venture into unknown territory.
One of the top international travel security tips you’ll often hear from experts is to do your research.
Get to know everything you can about the area you’re traveling to beyond the travel safety map provided on the US Department of State website. This involves collecting and analyzing all the available intelligence about the area you’re going to.
Learn about the security risks you need to prepare for, crime levels in the area, the prevalence of corruption, local traditions, religions, culture, safe borders, natural disasters, in-country support, and any other information that’s relevant to your safety and wellbeing. Understanding the environment you’re going to be in is the key to determining what your security needs might be once you touch-down.
Depending on the risks you uncovered during your research, you’ll need to develop a risk-management and contingency plan to mitigate them.
Establish what kind of communication devices you’ll need to take with you, protective clothing, and other travel accessories that may come in handy to keep you safe and protected from harm. It may involve having a discreet GPS device on you at all times, having emergency numbers programmed into your speed dials, and even pre-drafting emergency text messages in case you need to let your emergency contacts know you’re in trouble.
It’s also a good idea to ensure you’ve made adequate medical evacuation arrangements if you ever need to use them.
Cybersecurity for travelers is often the most overlooked aspect of travel safety. Any information you might have can be detrimental to your safety, as well as that of your loved ones, if it falls into the wrong hands.
Ensure that your electronic devices have adequate encryptions and activated passwords at all times. Don’t save any sensitive data or documentation in your devices if they could potentially increase your risk. If you do need to carry documents, consider storing them in the cloud or, at the very least, on a separate encrypted hard-drive or USB.
On-ground travel security also involves choosing secure accommodations. Check that the hotel or property in question offers 24/7 security surveillance. Steer clear of lodgings near embassies, government buildings, religious centers, or any other major icons. Plan your routes and have an emergency exit plan to get out quickly and safely. Make a point to identify local points of assistance such as police stations, healthcare facilities, and border crossings.
When traveling to a high-risk area, it’s important to maintain a low profile for the duration of your visit. Try to blend in with the locals as much as you can, in keeping with their culture and dressing. Prepare a “go bag” with emergency essentials that you can grab-and-go if you need to. It’s also a good idea to have a well-stocked medical/survival kit you can use in emergencies.
Additionally, consider enrolling your upcoming trip in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). That way, the US Embassy can get in touch with you in an emergency, whether it’s in the form of civil unrest, a natural disaster, or even a family crisis.
If you believe that you might need respirators, ballistic vests, or any other kind of protective clothing, ensure you get specialist advice from private security experts to point you in the right direction when it comes to sizing and rating, as well as where to get them.
Finally, consider getting private armed security, particularly if you’re an Ultra-High Net-Worth Individual (UHNWI) traveling to a high-risk zone. VIPs and executives face imminent threats from several sources that leave them with a permanent target on their backs. As a result, it becomes difficult to predict where potential danger might emanate from.
More often than not, danger strikes without warning, resulting in kidnapping, robbery, assault, or worse. Having trained, armed protection agents with you at all times not only ensures that you stay safe but also stops threats before they manifest into life-threatening situations.
Understanding the high-risk zone you’re headed to will play a major role in preparing for your trip. We always say – it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared when traveling to a region that could potentially be detrimental to your safety and wellbeing.
Not entirely sure what your private security needs are? Get in touch with an elite risk mitigation company for a free consultation.
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Mexico’s vibrant festivals, delicious cuisine, rich heritage sites, and balmy beaches are just some of the reasons why it’s a top holiday destination for many. Nonetheless, the country has reported rising cases of violent crime, including robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, and homicide. In light of this, the question on most travelers’ minds is – Is it safe to travel to Mexico?
Mexico’s location, south of the US border, has been a haven for powerful criminal gangs smuggling marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and other illicit drugs into the US. Within the country itself, rival gangs battle for drug cartel areas in Mexico to gain control over popular drug-smuggling routes.
If you end up in any one of these crime hotspots, you face a high risk of getting kidnapped, or worse, murdered. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know before you travel to Mexico.
The US State Department has issued a Level 3 travel advisory to individuals traveling to Mexico. Here’s what the different levels mean.
The State Department’s travel advisory rating is based on the increased crime and kidnapping risk in Mexico, as well as the ever-rising cases of COVID-19.
Below is a list of the regions within Mexico that the State Department has issued a Level-4 do-not-travel advisory due to the high crime and kidnapping risk in those areas.
The following regions within Mexico have a Level-3 reconsider-travel advisory due to the high reported crime rates.
(Source: US Department of State)
Violent crimes such as robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, and homicide are widespread in all parts of the country, and are reflected in the interactive travel advisory map. The states we’ve listed above simply have much higher crime rates. They pose a higher risk to your security and safety.
Keep in mind, as well, that the US government cannot offer emergency services to its citizens traveling to or residing in various high/medium risk areas in Mexico. This is because travel to these crime zones by US government personnel is significantly restricted or prohibited entirely by the Mexican government.
This means that if you travel to these states, you’re pretty much on your own. The next best option would be to enlist the help of private security personnel who are well-versed in search, rescue, and evacuation activities in high-risk zones.
Cancun is a popular resort destination known for its stunning beaches and tropical party atmosphere. It is also the gateway to the historic Maya Riviera, home to the world-famous Maya ruins and ancient relics.
As you would expect with any area that’s a tourist hotspot, Cancun has its fair share of scammers and petty thieves. The influx of tourists to the region also means more drug-trafficking, which, in turn, leads to increased cartel activity.
While the city may not have the high crime rates seen in other parts of Mexico, it is still a long way from what would be considered “safe” — especially if you are wealthy. There have been a few cases of Americans kidnapped in Mexico while heading to or from top vacation destinations across the country. The crime rates in these cities have been on a slow rise as the Mexican cartels make a bigger push for these resort destinations.
Just a few years ago, a military base was set up in Cancun to curb the rising number of homicides in the region. However, more often than not, this brand of Mexican violence is usually gang-related and not necessarily targeted at foreign nationals or tourists. While there is still the possibility of getting caught up in the crossfire, Cancun, for the most part, has not had any significant travel advisories from the US, UK, or any other government.
While Cancun is not 100% safe, it is a lot safer than other cities across Mexico. You should still exercise safety precautions if you intend to make it your next vacation destination. However, if you are wealthy, the threat of kidnapping is significantly higher and you should strongly consider traveling with an executive protection detail that has experience operating in this region of the world.
The short answer is yes, but one key factor will greatly impact to what degree – your mode of transport. If you are traveling via commercial flights, taking a bus trip, or driving across the border yourself then you fall into the same bucket as every other traveler as it pertains to threats. Petty theft, extortion, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time are generally your biggest safety concerns.
However, if you travel by private aircraft into Mexico, you are a target regardless of where in Mexico you travel.
Private aircraft, whether turbo prop or jet engine, are all viewed as something only wealthy people do – which results in a greater likelihood of being targeted for kidnapping. All Mexican private airfields have cartel spotters whose sole purpose is to identify kidnap and ransom targets of opportunity.
So, if you fly private into Mexico without a security detail, then you have already been identified and targeted for these types of sophisticated, high-level attacks and it is only a matter of time before an actual kidnapping attempt is made.
Cabos San Lucas is one of two distinct towns (the other being San Jose del Cabo) that make up the Los Cabos area. The tropical weather, bustling nightlife, world-class dining, and exotic resorts are just some of the attractions that make it a top destination for tourists from all parts of the globe.
Although the US State Department has issued a Level-2 travel advisory requiring travelers to exercise increased caution when traveling to Baja California Sur state, the region is plagued by cartels battling each other for power and control of the region. These battles have been known to spill over onto the beaches and hotels with heavy gun fire where many tourists vacation. Just before Christmas of 2017, six bodies were hung from various bridges in the region in cartel on cartel violence. The region includes popular tourist destinations in La Paz, San Jose del Cabo, and Cabo San Lucas.
Another very common occurrence targets the wealthy and actually takes place at some very unexpected locations.
Ultra-luxury resorts such as the One & Only Palmilla and Villas Del Mar have been a hotbed of petty crimes and theft – primarily involving resort cleaning crews and some of the hotel staff. Large amounts of cash, precious stone and metal jewelry, luxury watches such as Rolex’s, laptop computers, women’s designer dresses, and even high end women’s make-up and skin products have all been reported missing by wealthy patrons.
Those involved in this type of crime ring do not want to risk getting caught by hotel management and losing employment, so they target their victims based on a combination of the following factors:
San Felipe is located on the east coast of the northern Baja region. The town of San Felipe has been made popular by the famous Baja 500 & Baja 1000 races that can start, finish, and travel through the seaside town.
In very recent years, San Felipe has seen its share of violence between locals and the government over fishing restrictions in the now government-protected waters that are home to breeding areas for sea creatures ranging from feeder fish to whales and everything in between.
In 2019, this sparked an attack on the Mexican Navy base located in town resulting in many deaths and burning of the base. The heavy weapons and rockets used in the attack suggest cartel involvement. This has led to a heavy increase in Mexican military presence throughout the town.
The non-tourist parts have had several reports of homicides, although these don’t usually target tourists. They are normally turf battles and criminal organization assassinations, which may sometimes result in the death of innocent bystanders.
If you’re planning on driving in San Felipe, ensure you have your immigration form (FMM) with you at all times. Baja California state has a Level-2 advisory from the State Department requiring travelers to exercise increased caution when traveling anywhere in the region – San Felipe included.
Approximately 10 women are killed every day in Mexico, with the rate of femicide having more than doubled since 2015. In January of 2020 alone, 73 of the 320 female murder cases reported in that month were recorded as femicides.
Femicide crimes in the country don’t just target Mexican women. All women – foreign and local alike – are at risk of gender-motivated violence.
Femicide crimes are particularly brutal. The majority of deaths occur through stabbing, suffocation, drowning, and strangulation. The country’s rate of systemic impunity is at an all-time high, with more than 93 percent of the crimes going unreported or uninvestigated. Sometimes, the authorities don’t even classify them as femicides.
If you’re a woman intending to travel to Mexico, ensure that you heed all the Mexico travel security guidelines issued by the US State Department to steer clear of the high-risk zones. You can also go one step further and enlist the services of private security personnel to ensure you’re safe throughout your trip. It could spell the difference between life and death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level-4 travel health notice, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 infection rates in the country. The CDC recommendation is to avoid travel to the country at this time.
Although Mexico is open to international travelers, the country doesn’t require visitors to quarantine or even provide a negative PCR/antigen test on arrival. The US-Mexico land border remains closed for non-essential travel. Flights to and from the country, however, will continue to operate.
Keep in mind that before you return to the US from Mexico, you will need to provide a negative result for a COVID-19 test taken not more than 72 hours from the date of travel. The number of new infections in the country is still on the rise, so you’ll need to exercise extreme caution and adhere to the CDC guidelines if you intend to travel to the region.
So, is it safe to travel to Mexico? For the most part – no; however, in reality, it all boils down to where you’re planning to visit.
If you must travel to the country, be sure to keep to the tourist areas and avoid venturing into the cities with high reported crime and violence rates. The Level-3 and Level-4 advisory states we’ve listed in this guide should be avoided.
If you’re seeking private security services but aren’t quite sure of what you need, get in touch with us for a free consultation.
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Located on the north-eastern tip of Africa, Egypt is home to one of the oldest and greatest ancient civilizations the world has ever known. With a population spanning 102 million+ people, the country is the most populous Arab nation and the third most populous country in Africa.
But before you hop on the next flight out, the question that’s likely on your mind is – Is it safe to travel to Egypt? Here’s everything you need to know.
If you’re thinking of traveling to Egypt as an American, the US Department of State (DOS) has issued a Level 3 travel advisory urging citizens to strongly reconsider visiting the country at this time. Here’s what the various advisory levels mean:
The reasons given by the DOS against Egypt travel has to do with the threat of terrorist attacks and the limited ability of the US Embassy to offer assistance to individuals with dual-nationality (i.e., US-Egyptian citizens) who end up arrested or detained for any reason.
The Egypt security situation is particularly precarious in the following regions:
Terrorist groups continue to plot attacks in different parts of the country and may do so at any time with no prior warning.
In the past, these attacks have targeted transportation hubs, local government facilities, diplomatic facilities, resorts, restaurants, foreign-owned businesses, and shopping malls.
They have also targeted religious sites, including churches, monasteries, mosques, and buses traveling to these locations. Most attacks have taken place in the country’s capital Cairo, despite the heavy presence of security in the city.
Aside from the threat of terrorism, the local laws outlaw all protests or demonstrations that take place without a permit. If you’re found participating in anti-government protests or posting content on social media that’s critical of the Egyptian government and its allies, you will be arrested and detained. This law applies to both the locals as well as US-Egyptian citizens with dual-citizenship status.
According to Egyptian law, Egyptian-American dual citizens are considered Egyptian. As a result, the US Embassy may not be able to provide you with consular services if you get detained.
Keep in mind as well that international travelers are subject to local laws. The country’s standards of due process, evidence, and rule of law are significantly different from those in the US. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may end up getting arrested, imprisoned, expelled, or denied entry altogether. Always be conscious of your behavior and how the Egyptian authorities may interpret it.
It’s also important to mention that Egyptian law enforcement officers do not require probable cause to stop, search, question, or detain civilians, whether local or foreign. You need to have proper documentation on you at all times to avoid getting detained. It is not unusual for American suspects to be detained for several months without formal charges or access to legal counsel.
Punishments in Egypt are often quite harsh for comparable crimes under US law. Drug-related offenses, for instance, regardless of how trivial they might seem, attract severe penalties in Egypt, including the death penalty or life imprisonment. These penalties apply to foreign nationals as well.
If you decide to travel to Egypt despite the DOS travel advisory, here are a few tips to help you stay safe during your trip.
If you need to get around town or even travel to the outskirts of the city, we recommend hiring a driver in Egypt.
Driving through Cairo’s maze of busy streets can be hazardous, especially if you’re used to a culture of structured road regulations. The country has one of the highest road-related fatalities in the world per mile driven.
As for cybersecurity in Egypt, ensure that you back up your electronic files in the cloud and remove sensitive data that may leave you or your loved ones vulnerable to security threats. Install strong passwords on all your electronic devices, and don’t use the same credentials in each of them.
Also, avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi, especially when making online purchases or doing any other kind of financial transaction. Pay attention to the goings-on around you, and be aware of how you use your digital devices.
Is it safe to travel to Egypt? For the most part, it’s not. Terrorism is the biggest threat in the country. The security services Egypt has to offer may not be adequate to keep you safe if you intend to stay there for an extended period.
Hiring a competent private security firm with experience in this region of the world is your best bet if you must travel to Egypt.
Not sure whether you need private security services for your upcoming trip?
Get in touch with us today for a free security assessment.
China is one of four ancient civilizations that date back more than 3,000 years. Even the language itself supersedes others both in uniqueness and complexity. It’s one of those places you need to visit at least once in your lifetime to get the full breadth of its rich, diverse heritage and remarkable natural wonders.
As spectacular as the country may be, China is not immune to crime or extreme security threats. There’s also the hard-to-ignore fact that it is a communist country. This means you don’t get to enjoy the same freedoms and liberties you’re used to at home.
If you’re thinking of taking a trip to the country, you’re probably wondering: Is it safe to travel to China? Here’s everything you need to know.
According to the China travel advisory information listed on the US Department of State (DOS) website, the country poses a Level 3 risk, though depending on who you are and why you’re traveling there, that threat level can easily be as high as Level 4. Here’s what the different levels mean:
In this case, the DOS urges American citizens to reconsider travel to China due to what it terms as the “arbitrary enforcement of local laws.” As we mentioned before, the People’s Republic of China is a communist state. It pretty much means that the government has complete and absolute power over its citizens and anyone else who steps onto their soil. Its actions are not governed by – nor required to follow – the due process of the law.
The Chinese government has been known to carry out wrongful detentions by using exit bans on US citizens, as well as those of other nationalities. These arbitrary detentions are used as a means to:
Keep in mind that an “exit ban” by definition means the inability to leave the country when you want to. In most cases, the reasons for an exit ban are not published or announced and US citizens only become aware of an exit ban the moment they attempt to depart from China to head back home.
To make matters worse, there is no legal process or judicial mechanism that allows them to find out how long the ban is in effect for or even contest it in a court of law. In fact, there’s little to nothing the US Government can or will do to help if you find yourself in this situation.
During detention, US citizens have no access to US consular services. In most cases, they don’t even have information on what their alleged crime is.
If you end up getting detained in China, chances are, you might be subjected to endless interrogations and prolonged detention without being afforded the right to due process.
Tourists, business people, Western journalists, and ex-government personnel alike have all been wrongfully and unlawfully detained for what the Chinese government alleges to be “gross violations of China security laws.” Individuals have even been detained for sending electronic messages that were critical of the Chinese government.
The other thing you need to know before you travel to China is that the government keeps tabs on all electronic communications that occur in the country. Government surveillance dates back to the 1920s and began as a form of social control under Chairman Mao’s communist party.
If you’re visiting the country, you’ll need to be aware that every move you make and communication you exchange is being monitored and recorded.
If you intend to visit Xinjiang, for instance, you’ll be required to hand over your smartphone and password before you’re allowed to enter. The authorities may then proceed to install an app that collects sensitive private information, including the contacts in your phonebook.
The app also analyzes text messages and does a general sweep of your phone to check whether there’s content that triggers any of the 70,000+ red flags to indicate that you’re a potential security risk to the country.
The Chinese government spends more money on active surveillance to develop sophisticated artificial intelligence monitoring technology than it does on national defense. You, therefore, need to be careful about the kind of information you send out to your loved ones back home, or else you might find yourself suddenly detained by the Chinese government.
Remember, the moment you touch down on Chinese soil, you’re bound by the country’s laws even if you’re a US citizen. Being a foreign national won’t count for much when you’re detained for weeks on end with incredulous charges leveled against you for sending messages or posting content on social media critical of the Chinese government.
It’s no secret that China’s ambition is to become a global leader in the tech space. This is evident in the country’s increased reliance on digital technology in day-to-day life. As a result, there has been a growing focus on data security to protect citizens’ information.
Ironically, the existing regulations on data collection in China seem less focused on protecting citizens’ privacy. Instead, it gives unmitigated leeway to the government to interpret those laws the best way it sees fit.
In June 2017, China enacted the new cybersecurity law. The initial piece of legislation, which was passed in 2016, sought to provide guidelines to maintain network security, promote the secure development of technology, and protect organizations and individuals’ interests and rights.
The law compels all entities – individuals and corporations alike – to store data within the country and provide the government with information to conduct regular “spot-checks.” This law’s ambiguous nature gives the government unlimited jurisdiction to “request information,” which many businesses feel increases the risk of security breaches.
The latest version of this law allows the government to investigate any organization it deems to be an immediate threat to national security, which also involves demanding full access to any data collected and stored within China. This leaves sensitive private information and intellectual property vulnerable to government abuse.
If you plan to do business in China, keep in mind that these cybersecurity laws will also bind your organization. This gives the government the authority to request and control the data you hold on Chinese servers.
China does not recognize international driver’s licenses. You would have to apply for a temporary one to last the duration of your trip.
Alternatively, you could apply for a permanent license, which would require you to have Chinese residency status. If you intend to drive in the country, keep in mind that the majority of road signs use Chinese symbols and letters, which can make navigation stressful for foreign visitors.
There’s also the fact that Chinese driving practices are worlds apart from what you’re accustomed to in Western societies. Don’t be surprised to find drivers ignoring red lights or failing to yield to other drivers the way road users in other countries do. It’s also not unusual to see a driver veering into oncoming traffic to pass a slow-moving vehicle blocking their lane. It can be dangerous for anyone who’s not familiar with defensive driving skills.
China is ranked as the world’s number one shipping nation, with the US coming in a close second. The country has the world’s largest bulk and container ports, so there is a significant national maritime security presence.
Earlier in the year, the China Coast Guard (CCG) law was enacted and took effect on February 1, 2021. The new legislation militarizes the country’s maritime law enforcement apparatus, which effectively puts military organizations in charge under the Central Military Commission’s centralized command and the Community Party Central Committee.
Having military apparatus in charge of maritime law enforcement is not unique to China alone. The UK, for instance, has the navy performing all Coast Guard duties. The same applies to the Maritime Gendarmerie in France and the Carabinieri in Italy. In the US, however, the Coast Guard units are responsible for enforcing maritime law. Although they are considered additional armed forces, they form separate entities from the US military’s naval branch.
According to China’s new CSG law, the country’s military apparatus has been granted the right to “take all the necessary measures, including the use of weapons when the country’s sovereignty and jurisdictional seas are illegally infringed upon by foreign nations, organizations, or individuals at sea.”
The law has elicited strong reactions from neighboring Japan, Indonesia, and Vietnam. The Philippines has even filed a diplomatic protest stating that the law is a “threat of war.”
The problem with the legislation is it doesn’t define what constitutes “jurisdictional waters.” There are several territorial disputes between the country and its neighbors, including islands whose internal waters China considers part of its territory.
The law gives China rights over waters that fall beyond the United Nations Convention’s limits on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This means that any vessels that come within the nine-dash line would be fair game for the Chinese military.
The US State Department has also issued a Level 3 travel advisory to Hong Kong urging US citizens to reconsider traveling to the region entirely. The reason listed on the DOS website is “due to the arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”
Hong Kong exists as a Special Administrative Region within China that enjoys a limited degree of executive, legislative, and judicial autonomy – though that is quickly changing. While mainland China runs on a communistic structure controlled by a single party, Hong Kong used to enjoy more liberties since it has been governed as a capitalist state running on a limited democracy.
When the China National Security Law was enacted on June 30, 2020, it gave mainland China the power to arbitrarily exercise security and police authority in Hong Kong. China has, on several occasions, demonstrated its intention to impose its authority in targeting a wide range of activities that, according to it, constitute subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces.
The new Hong Kong National Security Law curtails freedom of speech and protests, making it easier for mainland China to crack the whip on demonstrators. The administrative region had always meant to pass its own security law. However, all proposed bills on the matter were widely rejected. China passed the law to give the region a legal framework to deal with what it views as serious challenges to its power and authority.
What does this mean for you if you’re traveling to Hong Kong? The law applies to both residents and non-residents of the region. If you get arrested for taking part in a Hong Kong protest or any other activity the government deems illegal as per the new law, you could be looking at lifetime imprisonment if convicted.
If you’re traveling to Hong Kong from a high-risk country, you’re required to present a negative COVID-19 test taken a maximum of 72 hours before your arrival date. Once you arrive, you will need to submit to a medical screening process and quarantine for 21 days.
Is it safe to travel to China and Hong Kong? It depends largely on who you are and your purpose in visiting.
Aside from the issue of the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, China has a low crime rate. However, if the Chinese government can benefit from your detention because you are perceived as politically or economically influential, you can bet that you will be under heightened scrutiny and possibly detained and held by the Chinese authorities for no substantive reason.
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