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Most cities that bring together vast and diverse populations, while being places of great inspiration, commerce and community, also contain danger. Although no city is free of violence, disease and crime, some are clearly more affected than others.
Danger is hard to quantify, since one person’s nuisance may be another person’s nightmare, but Mercer Consulting recently released a global report on personal safety that aims to rank cities by their safety levels to help companies compensate employees fairly when placing them on assignments. It covers 221 cities ranked against New York as the base and measures them by criteria such as internal stability, crime levels, law enforcement effectiveness and the host countries' international relations. Within the 39 criteria it examines what has the largest effect on the expat community.
Several cities on the list are subject to official travel warnings, and since the survey was carried out in December 2011, some have seen their security situation deteriorate. While there may be little petty crime in Sana’a, Yemen, with growing instability the terrorist threat there has increased dramatically. This is also the case in Kenya, which is suffering from being next door to the failed state of Somalia. By comparison, safety in Tbilisi, Georgia, has improved.
Click ahead to find out the 10 cities ranked as the world’s most dangerous and whether they deserve this reputation.
By Bianca Schlotterbeck
Posted 23 May 2012
The U.S. State Department warns its citizens that crime in Conakry is part of daily life. Residential and street crimes are common, and some crime is perpetrated by people in military uniforms. Although sentiment toward U.S. citizens in Guinea is generally positive, according to the State Department, criminals regularly target foreigners, including Americans, because they are perceived as lucrative targets.
Nonviolent and violent crimes are problems. Most nonviolent crime involves pickpocketings and purse snatchings, while armed robbery, muggings and assaults are the most common violent crimes. Despite the police’s good intentions, they have been unable to prevent the rapid escalation of crime. Police and military officials have also been known to make direct and indirect requests for bribes. Criminals particularly target visitors at the airport, in the traditional markets and near hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners.
There is a severe threat of terrorism in Nairobi, with frequent attacks being carried out. Westerners are also warned of all but essential travel to low-income areas of the city, which experience high crime levels. Recent attacks in the city in 2012 include a grenade attack on a church near Nairobi city center on April 29 (pictured left), with one death reported. A series of suspected grenade explosions in the central business district on March 10th killed at least six people and wounded dozens.
On April 23, the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi warned that it had received credible information regarding a possible attack on hotels and prominent Kenyan government buildings. The timing of the attack was not known, but the U.S. Embassy has reason to believe that the potential attack is in the last stages of planning. On Jan. 5, Kenyan authorities alerted the public to a heightened terrorist threat in Nairobi.
Since the Mercer Survey in December, the security situation in Yemen has rapidly deteriorated, due to uprisings against the government and instability opening a door for terrorism. Both the State Department and the British Foreign Office are advising against all travel to Yemen and urging their citizens to leave while some commercial carriers are still flying there.
There is a threat of kidnap by armed tribes, criminals and terrorists. A U.N. Development Program official was kidnapped from central Sana’a on Jan. 15 and released 12 days later after negotiations. Due to the successful ransom negotiations concluded by Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), there are fears this could encourage more kidnappings. There is a strong possibility that any captive in Yemen could be sold to AQAP. The threat to Westerners is further heightened by the current security situation, and AQAP’s evolving presence in the south is likely to lead to a situation more conducive to kidnappings.
The security situation in Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, has improved. There is still a substantial crime risk and some instances of terrorism. For example, an explosive device was found in the car of an Israeli Embassy employee in Tbilisi on Feb. 13. And on May 12, floods in Tiblisi killed and injured a number of people.
Protests, like the one pictured at left, are also common in Tbilisi and can turn violent. Travelers are urged to avoid them. The British Foreign Office and U.S. State Department advise against all travel to the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where tensions remain high.
There is a high threat from terrorism and sectarian violence throughout Pakistan, with several attacks taking place in Karachi in 2011. The British Foreign Office warns that attacks could be indiscriminate, including at places frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers. U.K. and U.S. citizens are urged to keep a low profile, avoid large gatherings and limit movements on Fridays, the Muslim holy day. Public places have been targeted, particularly if they are associated with representatives of the Pakistani authorities or activities that could be considered by militants to be un-Islamic.
The U.K. Foreign Office warns citizens of all but essential travel to Kinshasa and the rest of the DRC. The capital has a critical crime threat, and U.S. citizens continue to be the victims of serious crimes, including armed robbery by groups posing as law enforcement officials in both urban and rural areas, especially after nightfall. It has been reported that robberies by gangs of street children are increasingly common and becoming more aggressive.
Some gangs use girls to lure people into traps; others promise cut-price gold and diamonds to rob foreigners, including in daylight. There is also a risk of arbitrary arrests of foreigners by security authorities who demand payment for release. In the past year, several U.S. citizens were illegally detained by government forces. Since June 2011, an outbreak of cholera has been reported in Kinshasa.
There are no travel restrictions for the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, but the U.S. State Department warns against all but essential travel outside of it. There were outbreaks of violence in Bangui in early June 2011 resulting in government-imposed curfews in the city, and recently there have been attacks on some Europeans on the scenic walks.
Incidents of theft and robbery occur regularly, and armed gangs are known to operate in the outlying areas of Bangui. There are limited transport and medical options in the city, and military and civilian security forces, and people posing as such, staff checkpoints throughout the city, frequently harassing international residents and visitors for bribes.
In some cases, U.S. citizens have been arrested and detained without due process and housed in harsh prison conditions. The government has at times denied consular access to American prisoners and moved them to other facilities without informing the U.S. Embassy.
The security situation in Abidjan has improved significantly since the arrest of former President Laurent Gbagbo on April 11 and the assumption of power by the duly elected president, Alassane Ouattara. However, while the security environment has improved, the U.S. State Department warns Americans to exercise caution, particularly at night.
The national forces loyal to Ouattara continue to seek to secure all parts of Abidjan (see picture) and the interior. Crimes such as muggings, robberies, burglaries and carjackings pose risks for foreign visitors in Abidjan, and the absence of an effective policing service remains a concern. Political rallies and public gatherings should be avoided. Yellow fever, cholera and measles cases have also been reported in the Abidjan area since the start of 2011.
Although there are no travel restrictions for the capital of Chad, N’Djamena, the British and American governments warn against traveling anywhere else in the country. Despite an improving security situation in Chad since a peace agreement with Sudan in early 2010, the upheaval in Libya has destabilized large parts of Chad, and there is an underlying threat of terrorism and kidnappings. The British Foreign Office warns that particularly in the capital, you should exercise caution and vigilance and avoid political rallies or other large public gatherings.
The capital of Iraq, Baghdad, is lthe world's most dangerous city in Mercer’s rankings. Following the withdrawal of military forces from Iraq as of Dec. 31, the U.S. State Department and British Foreign Office warn their citizens against all but essential travel to Iraq. They add that those traveling there should do so only with a professional security company. Monthly car bombings and threats of attack against U.S. targets throughout Iraq continue, including in the "Green Zone" of Baghdad.
Methods of attack available to groups targeting U.S. interests have included roadside improvised explosive devices, car bombs, suicide bombs, land mines, mortars and shootings using various direct fire weapons. Numerous insurgent groups remain active throughout Iraq.