26 November 2012

Liberia: Britain Alarms Security Threat

Great Britain says its safety and security advisory to Europeans traveling to Liberia and while they move about in the country remained unchanged as updated on 29 October 2012.

"We advise against all but essential travel to, Grand Gedeh and River Gee and counties where there have been reports of armed groups living in areas bordering Côte d'Ivoire," the report warned Europeans.

The report advised Europeans against travelling at night outside Monrovia, except to/from Roberts International Airport.

Though public transport and taxis are available at the airport, the advisory recommends that arriving at Roberts International Airport after dark to ensure availability of a pre-arranged transport from organization, hotel or a reputable car company (with driver).

Warning of no British Embassy in Liberia, the advisory expresses limited ability of the Honorary Consul in Monrovia to assist British nationals in Liberia.

As most British visitors to Liberia are working for the UN or international NGOs or large companies, the report said "there is a low threat from terrorism, but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers."

There is a low threat from terrorism, but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

Complaining about a significant level of crime, including armed robbery in Monrovia, the advisory suggested "the Liberian National Police has very limited capability to prevent or detect crime, or to provide emergency response in any part of the country. Levels of crime are much higher after dark, and you should not walk anywhere in the city at night."

"Most crime is opportunistic theft, although there are some more organised criminal gangs. Thieves are often armed with knives or machetes, but occasionally also carry firearms. While Liberians are the main victims of crime, the relative wealth of international visitors makes them an attractive target for criminals when the opportunity arises," it adds.

Avoid carrying valuables in public and be vigilant at all times, especially at night. Mobile phones and laptop computers are common targets of theft.

There have been incidents of muggings of foreigners in the Mamba Point and Sinkor areas of Monrovia, where most international visitors stay. Criminals also operate in other areas frequented by foreigners, such as nightclubs and beaches.

"There is a high incidence of rape in Liberia and there have been cases of rapes and attempted rapes involving expatriate women.

Take extra care when approached by strangers and when driving through high density areas or off the main roads," it further advised.

The standard of driving is generally poor. Be particularly alert to dangers from other vehicles swerving to avoid potholes and from taxis slowing or stopping unpredictably to pick up or drop off passengers and motorcycle taxis "Pein-Peins" (who are the major cause of road accidents). Motorcycle taxis are very dangerous and should be avoided.

UN Peacekeepers from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) are deployed to the main population centres around Liberia, and patrol the principal roads. They have the ability to deploy in any part of the country in response to any public order incidents or other threat to security but the response time can be very slow. Some more remote areas of the country may be patrolled only irregularly under normal conditions.

The advisory strictly alerts them, "Do not become involved with drugs of any kind. The import of arms is prohibited by UN sanctions.

The offenses of drug trafficking and diamond smuggling attracts court trial,

and there are heavy penalties for those convicted in prisons with harsh conditions. Homosexuality is illegal in Liberia, the advisory warned.

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