US State Dept updates advisory: Reconsider travel to Trinidad and Tobago

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Policemen on patrol on Charlotte Street, Port of Spain. – FILE PHOTO/SUREASH CHOLAI

A MONTH after placing this country on its Level II (exercise increased caution) tier, the US State Department has updated its travel advisory, bringing TT to Level III – Reconsider travel to this country.

Crime was given as the reason for the State Department’s moving TT to Level III.

There are four levels the US uses to advise its citizens in terms of visiting or doing work in a specific country – Level I: exercise normal precautions; Level II: exercise increased caution; Level III: reconsider travel and Level IV: do not travel.

In its update on Wednesday, the State Department’s travel advisory called on Americans to reconsider travel to Trinidad and Tobago because of crime.

Those who still choose to visit TT must exercise increased caution in the country due to terrorism and kidnapping. Some areas in TT, the State Department said, have increased risk.

The advisory said US government personnel are prohibited from travelling to the following areas in Port of Spain: Laventille, Beetham, Sea Lots, Cocorite, and the interior of the Queen’s Park Savannah.

After dark, the advisory continued, US government personnel are prohibited from travelling to downtown Port of Spain, Fort George overlook, and all beaches. Violence and shootings occur regularly in some areas of Port of Spain.

TT’s Country Summary was that violent crimes such as murder, robbery, assault, sexual assault, home invasion and kidnapping were common.

Gang activity, such as narcotics trafficking, is common. A significant portion of violent crime is gang-related, the State Department said.

The updated advisory came on the day Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on National Security met to examine the factors contributing to the prevalence of illegal firearms and gun violence.

The rest of the advisory also warned Americans that terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transport hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports and other public areas.

When the State Department updated its TT travel advisory on October 5, there was a backlash from the Government, with National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds questioning the rationale behind the advisory.

He argued that it had been some years since any criminal incident which could be deemed terrorist activities had occurred in TT and that kidnapping for ransom was almost non-existent.

The US embassy responded to Hinds’ criticisms in a release saying its October 5 update was “due to a change in health restrictions for covid19,” and that the advisories “do not target specific countries.”

In its latest advisory, the State Department told its citizens if they still decide to visit TT, they should enrol in its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and make it easier for Americans to be located in an emergency.

As of press time on Wednesday, the country’s murder toll stood at 523 for the year to date.