Saturday, 24 February 2018

British tourists warned to 'stay in resorts' in Jamaica security emergency

Posted On Saturday, 20 January 2018 23:25 Written by
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The military have been given extra powers, allowing them to search and detain without a warrant The military have been given extra powers, allowing them to search and detain without a warrant

British tourists are being warned they should stay inside their resorts in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

The Jamaican government has declared a state of emergency in the St James parish, after a number of "shooting incidents".

The Foreign Office has told British tourists to stay in the confines of their hotels as a "major military operation" takes place.

About 200,000 British tourists visit Jamaica every year.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "[Tourists] should follow local advice including restrictions in selected areas, and exercise particular care if travelling at night.

"[They] should stay in their resorts and limit travel beyond their respective security perimeters."

Jamaican prime minister, Andrew Holness
Image captionJamaica PM Andrew Holness says the government had been planning the operation "for some time"

On Thursday the country's prime minister, Andrew Holness, said the state of emergency was "necessary" in order to "restore public safety" in the St James area.

Chief of defence, Major General Rocky Meade, said forces were targeting gangs, with "particular focus on those that are responsible for murders, lotto scamming, trafficking of arms and guns, and extortion".

He added: "We ask that you co-operate with the troops."

He told Radio 5 live: "Last year there were an average of six killings a week - and since the start of the year it has got even worse."

Jamaican newspaper the Gleaner reported that there were 335 murders in the St James parish in 2017.

It also estimated there had been 38 killings across the country in the first six days of 2018, compared with 23 over the same period last year.

Montego BayImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Tourists are drawn to Montego Bay's white sandy beaches

As the UK Foreign Office has not warned against travel to Jamaica, Mr Calder said holiday firms have no obligation to offer customers alternative destinations.

He added: "I've never seen Foreign Office advice quite like this before. Normally the UK government says either 'it's OK' or 'don't go'."

A military checkpoint in Montego BayImage copyrightBECKS PALOU
Becks Palou says the military told her group it was fine to travel around the country

'Feels safe'

Bristol-based Becks Palou is part of a group of friends on holiday in Montego Bay.

They left their hotel early this morning to drive to Kingston, the capital, after staff said it was safe to travel.

Ms Palou, who is originally from Spain, said they were delayed by stops at military checkpoints but were able to reach their destination.

She said: "When we went out on the road, we arrived at the checks and we were let through. Soldiers felt it was fine to travel.

"It feels safe, more than usual because the roads are quieter."

Sean Tipton, from the Association of British Travel Agents, said that hotels in Montego Bay have "very strict security" which means tourists can feel safe.

He told the BBC: "If you look at the incidents that have occurred, they have been directed at local people.

"It's obviously terrible for them, but in terms of instances affecting tourists, I haven't actually come across one in Jamaica for quite some time."

He also stressed the importance of following the advice from tour operators and the Foreign Office and not leaving resorts unless on an organised excursion.


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