Don’t Be a Kidnapping Victim When Traveling Abroad
Living and working abroad holds great appeal to many, but recent statistics on kidnapping reveal that sometimes being in a foreign county can be dangerous.
According to international kidnapping statistics presented by public policy groups, an estimated 100,000-plus kidnappings occurred around the world in 2014, many happening to international visitors.
Experts reveal that the number of kidnapping victims is probably even greater since not every country classifies kidnapping in the same way, and many kidnappings go unreported. For example, in many Asian and Latin American countries, a practice called “express kidnappings” where hostages are taken for only a day or just long enough for the criminals to max out a victim’s credit cards or deplete their bank account, is classified simply as a robbery.
The likelihood of getting kidnapped at gunpoint is unfortunately increasing in numerous countries, as officials look the other way and crime runs rampant in the streets.
Below is a list of the five countries with the highest kidnapping rates in the world and tips to avoid trouble.
Mexico is the #1 at-risk country for kidnappings according to RiskMap 2014, a new report from Control Risks. According to statistics published by the Mexican Secretaria de Gobernacion (SEGOB), last year kidnappings nationwide increased 20 percent over the previous year, and 245 percent in the last decade. Places to be mindful are Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Michoacán, Estado de Mexico, and Morelos, which recorded the largest number of kidnappings in 2014. Mexico’s kidnappers have a notorious reputation for being violent, with nearly 1,000 victims killed over the last decade. The safest way to avoid trouble is sticking to well-lit streets, staying away from unofficial rides and minimizing any time spent outside of touristy areas.
Kidnapping rates in India have increased faster than any other crime in the last 50 years according to statistics released by the country’s government. Bihar, one of India’s poorest states, is reported as accounting for a large number of abductions. India is also home to several large criminal organizations and rebel groups, who orchestrate the kidnappings to improve their revenue streams. The easiest way to avoid kidnappings in India is to stay close to large groups of people and not flaunt any wealth. The National Human Rights Commission reported in 2012 that nearly 60,000 children go missing every year in India, and less than a third of the abducted are ever found. In 2012, there were 3,675 kidnapping cases in Delhi compared to 3,529 cases in 2011.
Lebanon’s brutal civil war was responsible for high cases of kidnappings, but the past 30 years has seen those numbers decline as the government become more stable. However, neighboring Syria’s civil war has once again made Lebanon one of the most likely places to be kidnapped, with recent estimates showing the kidnapping rate increasing almost 100 percent last year in the country. The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security reported that in 2014, kidnapping for ransom spiked, also blaming Syrians for the repeated problem. The best safety tip is to avoid the Lebanese-Syrian border region, and stay away from cars offering rides.
Once considered the second highest risk for kidnappings in the world, after Mexico, Colombia has improved dramatically in the last decade as the government has more of a handle on its rebel problem. Colombia’s Defense Ministry reported just 219 kidnapping incidents in its last report, the lowest number in quite some time. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia was long responsible for a number of kidnappings to help raise money for its efforts, but in 2013 urged a stop to the practice as part of the peace process. The best way to stay safe in Colombia is to travel with someone from the area.
The newspaper El Nacional reported that there were about 1,000 reported kidnappings in the country in 2014, with more than 25 percent of those happening in the capital of Caracas. A lack of economic opportunities, especially in Caracas, create an environment conducive to kidnappings as police are unable to maintain order. Recent Venezuela government statistics indicate kidnappings decreased by 51 percent between June 2013 and June 2014, following the creation of a national anti-kidnapping unit, but these numbers haven’t been backed up by any official reporting agencies. Kidnappings frequently occur as people leave hotels, when using unauthorized taxis from and to wealthier areas with limited vehicle and foot traffic. The best way to stay safe is to be wary when leaving your hotel and traveling with others.
Other countries with high kidnappings include the Philippines, Brazil, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Egypt.
Tips on How to Prevent a Kidnapping Abroad
Travelers should always be mindful of where they are. Some tips for any country is to not wear expensive-looking jewelry and not to bring any expensive cameras with you — they’ll make you look like a tourist with money. It’s also a good idea to do research on safety and security by checking out country risk assessment guides.
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