As highlighted in the tragic events in France, Belgium and most recently in Turkey terrorism is a worldwide threat. Terrorist groups abroad have attacked both foreigners and locals in ‘soft’ targets where they may gather, such as hotels, transport systems, night-life areas, beaches / beach resorts and landmarks. The following is an introduction to travel security, whether it be on holiday or business there are certain things individuals can do to minimise the risk to themselves and others.
- Check your country of destination and any transit countries using the official FCO travel advice web page found here and also register for any travel alert updates here.
- Monitor social media and news for any information in relation to the country of destination.
- Be aware of the criminal aspect to the area as well as the threat from international or national terrorism. Certain countries experience ‘trends’ in kidnapping during specific times of the year.
- Inform people at home of your travel plans and ensure you give them contact details of your hotel / place of residence, local mobile phone number if applicable and address.
- If travelling with work check with your HR department to see if they have a travel monitoring policy in place. If travelling to a high risk area (as defined by the FCO) then request that a full travel ‘over watch’ is implemented if this is a company policy. This can include anything from a simple itinerary check and check call program being set up to a full escort and close protection team being deployed.
- Check using open source media places of importance around your place of residence or work such as local police stations, embassies and hospitals.
- Make colour copies of your passport and visa and keep these on your person. Secure the originals in a safe place at work or residence. Check with local laws regarding this and ensure that the originals do not have to be carried.
- Make yourself aware of your immediate surroundings such as fire escapes and places of refuge. If staying in a hotel or an apartment block familiarise yourself with their evacuation plans and routes and also their various alarm calls.
- Be particularly vigilant around significant holiday periods, especially religious occasions such as Ramadan, as these often attract increased publicity in the event of an attack.
- Be vigilant in crowded public places such as restaurants, parks, events, shopping centres and cinemas / theatres. Take note of the dynamic of the crowd around you and respond appropriately if this dynamic changes.
- Be situationally aware, avoid walking along streets, especially if they are unfamiliar, listening to music on ear phones or talking on your mobile phone. Not only are you unaware of your immediate surroundings but it may also make you a more attractive target for opportunistic thieves.
- When you are out of your place of residence / work ensure your mobile phone is fully charged and where possible carry a spare battery or portable charger. Ensure all local emergency service numbers (Fire, Police, Ambulance & Embassy) are stored on your device. Also try and carry various denomination local currency notes which can be used in emergencies, such as hailing a taxi if you become lost or paying for a local guide or advice.
- Research any cultural differences (including dress code) you may come across on your travels and make sure you comply with these when out and about and visiting attractions, especially religious attractions such as churches, mosques and religious shrines.
The above list is not exhaustive and along with common sense and good practice should ensure that you have a safe and uneventful trip. For further advice regarding overseas travel please visit the MI5 and FCO website or if travelling with work discuss directly with your HR department.