While the US State Department’s updated travel advisory on Trinidad and Tobago has received much attention in recent weeks, the US is not the only country that has issued warnings to its citizens about visiting this country.
Many other countries have updated or had in place similar advisories highlighting the threat of crime in T&T.
The United Kingdom updated its travel advisory to Trinidad and Tobago on November 11, warning its citizens of “high levels of violent crime” in this country. The UK warned its citizens of gang-related incidents, and cautioned that British nationals should avoid carrying large amounts of cash and wearing “eye-catching jewelry” while in T&T.
Canada’s travel advisory carries the same theme, with Canadian citizens being warned to “exercise extreme caution” when visiting T&T. “Violent crime, including armed robberies, assaults and sexual assault, occurs frequently on the island of Trinidad, especially in the capital, Port of Spain. Tourists have been targeted,” says Canada’s travel advice.
Canada also warned of shootings, kidnappings and other gang- and drug-related violence, home invasions, fraud and a threat of terrorism.
Australia’s travel advisory for T&T, last updated in July, warned of “very high levels of serious violent crime” and advised Australian citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution” when visiting T&T.
Singapore cautions its citizens that “violence and shootings can occur in some areas of Port of Spain”.
New Zealand and Ireland also warn of T&T’s crime level in their advisories.
Business leaders who spoke with the Express recently expressed concern that the country’s image has been tarnished, noting critical sectors like tourism, trade and investment could be harmed as a result of negative travel advisories.
But they said the warnings were justified, given T&T’s high crime levels and other countries’ duty to protect their citizens.
Browne: US advisory not entirely justified
Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne told the Sunday Express yesterday there appears to be more focus on the US travel advisory due to it being recently updated and T&T’s status downgraded.
But he said the Government does not believe the US advisory is entirely justified.
“…Government is concerned about the use of standardised language in some of the narrative of the US advisory which appears to be applied across multiple countries, particularly with regard to terrorism,” he said.
“The Government does not believe that the continuous narrative that T&T is at high risk for acts of terrorism is justified.”
Browne further stated: “Every country has a right to guide its citizens and a travel advisory is just one tool that is used to do so. There is no doubt that the crime rate is high at this time, and people should be advised accordingly; however the advice should be as accurate as possible.”
Last week, on the heels of the updated US advisory, Browne and National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds met with Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy Shante Moore to discuss the matter.
A statement issued following the meeting said the T&T Government conveyed its concerns about the advisory.
The statement said “all parties agreed to continue the ongoing collaboration between Trinidad and Tobago and the United States of America in an effort to address issues highlighted by the Travel Advisory, and the Chargé d’Affaires undertook to convey the views expressed at the meeting to the US State Department”.
Browne told the Sunday Express the Government makes efforts to meet with the high commissioner or ambassador or makes representation to the government of any country that issues a negative travel advisory on T&T that contains information “contrary to the information that the Government of T&T has”.
Asked how T&T can begin to recover its image in the face of the many negative travel advisories from other countries, Browne pointed to consultation and collaboration. “Some level of additional consultation with the foreign country on security matters is often useful,” he said.
“We have important collaborations with a range of international partners on national security issues, including the USA and the UK. T&T must continue to leverage these partnerships to achieve the best possible results for our citizens.”
Additionally, Browne said every citizen has a responsibility to uphold T&T in a positive light and he said this includes the example set by leaders and the way the media reports the news.
He noted that crime is a multifaceted issue and the solutions take time to yield the desired outcomes.
“The answer will not be found in pretending that all is well because such an approach does not make anyone safer,” he said.