1 November 2016

News summary

ARGENTINA - Strike and associated protest planned for Buenos Aires state
CHILE - Public sector strike anticipated
VENEZUELA - Pro-government demonstration anticipated in Caracas
AFGHANISTAN - Islamic State-claimed attack in Jalalabad
INDIA - Authorities issue health warnings due to pollution in Delhi
NEPAL - Heightened security expected during India's presidential visit
PAKISTAN - Large-scale demonstration planned for Islamabad
PHILIPPINES - South Korean national shot and killed in Baguio
UNITED KINGDOM - Strike to impact Southern railway services
MOROCCO - Further protests possible following death of fish vendor
BOTSWANA - Foreign national killed during robbery in Palapye
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - Clashes in PK5 district of Bangui
SOUTH AFRICA - Protests expected at magistrates' court in Pretoria
SOUTH SUDAN - Possible strike action at Juba International Airport



ARGENTINA (Country risk rating: High); 2 November; Strike and associated protest planned for Buenos Aires state

The Association of State Workers (ATE) union has called for a strike in Argentina's Buenos Aires state on 2 November. The industrial action has been called to demand salary increases and increased job security for approximately 15,000 state workers whose contracts are set to expire in December. Associated protests have also been called on the day. Should these take place, they are likely to focus on the capital, Buenos Aires. The agitation is the latest union-led action in Argentina; most of these have been related to President Mauricio Macri's economic policies. Should the protests go ahead, precedent suggests they will be peaceful, albeit disruptive, particularly in state capitals. Nonetheless, the risk of low-level violence at any related events cannot be discounted.

Advice: Clients in Buenos Aires state, and in Buenos Aires in particular, on 2 November should monitor local media for updates on the details of possible protests, and should avoid all large street gatherings as a standard precaution. Allowances should be made for potential localised disruptions.

CHILE (Country risk rating: Medium); 2 November; Public sector strike anticipated

Public sector unions in Chile have called for a countrywide strike on 2 November. The strike has been organised to denounce an offer made by the government in relation to wage increases. In addition to the strike, a major demonstration has been organised in Valparaiso at 08:00 local time; however, the exact location of the gathering has not been disclosed. The agitation over salary-related grievances is the latest to affect Chile in recent weeks. Disruptions to state operations and at all major ports of entry should be anticipated for the duration of the industrial action. Precedent suggests that land border crossings are more likely to be affected by the strike; however, the possibility of some disruptions at major airports cannot be discounted. In addition to Valparaiso, protests are also possible in other urban centres. The risk of violence is low; however, the possibility of minor confrontations cannot be discounted.

Advice: Clients intending to undertake overland travel during the strike period are advised to enquire about the status of services at border crossings prior to travelling. Persons intending to transit airports in Chile during the strike should contact their travel provider or airline for an update on the status of their flight(s). All protests should be avoided.

VENEZUELA (Country risk rating: High); 1 November; Pro-government demonstration anticipated in Caracas

Venezuela's ruling party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), has called on its supporters to observe a demonstration and march to the presidential palace (Palacio de Miraflores), in the capital, Caracas, on 1 November. Additionally, party leaders called for a march along Bolivar Avenue, in Caracas, on 3 November. The action has been launched to support and defend the principles of democracy and peace, and to celebrate the arrival of the Christmas season. The aforementioned agitations come amid elevated political and security tensions, following the National Electoral Council (CNE)'s recent suspension of recall referendum proceedings against President Nicolas Maduro. The suspension of the recall process is potentially a major blow for the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), which aimed to force a referendum before January 2017 in order to trigger new elections. In response to the CNE's decision, the MUD launched large-scale protests over the issue across the country on 26 October, some of which deteriorated into violence, leaving at least one person dead and dozens of others wounded. In light of this, the opposition coalition is likely to hold counter-protests at pro-government events, including at the demonstrations set for 1 and 3 November. It should be noted that the increased number of reported violent incidents at these protests illustrates a marked escalation in the nature of the opposition unrest in the country. In this regard, the risk of violence at all politically motivated protests in Venezuela is assessed to be elevated.

Advice: Persons in Venezuela in the near-term are advised to avoid all protests, large street gatherings and concentrations of security forces as a standard precaution. Clients are reminded that, in light of the ongoing economic and political crises, all non-essential travel to the country is advised against. Crisis management plans should be regularly reviewed and updated.

Asia and Pacific

AFGHANISTAN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 31 October; Islamic State-claimed attack in Jalalabad

A suicide bomb attack, claimed by the Islamic State (IS), killed at least six people in Jalalabad, located in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, on 31 October. The incident occurred at an unspecified location within Jalalabad, at a council meeting attended by tribal elders, who had gathered to discuss working together to confront the Islamic State in Khorasan (ISIK). The assailant first fired an automatic weapon, before detonating explosives. ISIK, IS's regional affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is known to possess approximately 1,300 fighters, and is based in Nangarhar province, with operations in Kunar and Logar provinces. Tribal elders are often targeted by militants, as they are often the de facto governing authority in areas in Afghanistan, where government control is weak. Afghan and US forces actively combat ISIK militants and have enjoyed notable success against the group in recent months. IS is also opposed by the Taleban. These pressures will continue to limit the extent of the group's territorial control; however, mass-casualty and asymmetrical attacks, as well as ambushes, are likely to continue. These will likely target rival warlords, government forces and local officials, as well as Taleban targets, and may also include opportunistic attacks against minority groups, such as the Hazara.

Advice: Due to a number of security concerns, all travel to Afghanistan is advised against. Persons currently in the country should maintain a low profile and refrain from publicising their itineraries. Travel outside of urban centres should only be undertaken following a full security review of the route, ideally in the presence of a security escort familiar with the local conditions, and during daylight hours only.

INDIA (Country risk rating: High); 31 October; Authorities issue health warnings due to pollution in Delhi

India's Environmental Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) issued health warnings regarding high pollution levels in India's capital, Delhi, on 31 October. Authorities reported particle levels above 900 micrograms per cubic metre, an amount 90 times higher than World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations. Authorities stated that the air quality index was currently in the severe category, and likely to affect those without pre-existing medical conditions, and to seriously impact those with existing diseases. As a result of this, the young, elderly and those with respiratory or heart conditions were urged to remain indoors. The air quality is expected to improve from 1 November, according to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). Air pollution is a major concern in India, where the situation is often exacerbated in winter due to slower winds and open fires, lit to provide warmth during the country's coldest months. In Delhi, the situation is particularly pronounced due to the ongoing burning of crops in agricultural fields in the neighbouring Punjab and Haryana states. Air pollution may result in air and road travel disruptions when visibility becomes limited. There are also a number of associated health concerns related to the pollution. Those at highest risk include the elderly, children and persons suffering from respiratory ailments.

Advice: Clients in or planning to travel to Delhi in the coming days are advised to adhere to all directives issued by the local authorities. Furthermore, persons intending to conduct road-based travel may encounter traffic delays. Travellers suffering from asthma, respiratory illnesses or other pre-existing medical conditions are advised to consult local media or their medical practitioner for further guidance and recommendations.

NEPAL (Country risk rating: High); 2 to 4 November; Heightened security expected during India's presidential visit

Elevated security measures are expected in Nepal during the visit of India's President Pranab Mukherjee, from 2 to 4 November. Related events and meetings are scheduled to take place in the capital, Kathmandu, as well as in Janakpur and Pokhara. Mukherjee is expected to engage in bilateral talks with Nepalese President Bidhya Devi Bhandari as well as Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal while in Kathmandu. In Janakpur, religious sites, including the Ram Janaki Temple, are expected to be visited. President Mukherjee will also visit tourist sights in Pokhara. Heightened security measures are likely to include police checkpoints, random identification checks, exclusion zones and other movement-restrictive measures. Security along road routes, at meeting venues and major religious/state sites should be anticipated. Increased security measures may result in some road travel disruptions in the affected cities.

Advice: Clients in Nepal are advised to adhere to the directives of local authorities and to make allowances for possible travel delays resulting from the enhanced security measures. Clients should also keep flexible itineraries.

PAKISTAN (Country risk rating: High); 2 November; Large-scale demonstration planned for Islamabad

The opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party is scheduled to hold a large sit-in protest in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, on 2 November. The planned sit-in forms part an ongoing campaign in opposition to government corruption, specifically in relation to the Panama Papers scandal. This is a collection of leaked banking records that show a connection between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family and offshore bank accounts of questionable legality. Specifically, the rally has been called to pressure Sharif to step down from his post. In response to the planned rally, local authorities issued a directive banning all protest action in Islamabad and the neighbouring city of Rawalpindi for two months; however, the PTI leadership subsequently stated the protest would go ahead nonetheless. On 31 October, the Islamabad High Court allowed the protest to go ahead, but only if it takes place at the Parade Grounds, near Islamabad's Faizabad Interchange. In an attempt to limit the size of the protest, authorities have blocked roads leading from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (a PTI stronghold) into the city. Clashes between police and protesters trying to bypass the blockades were reported on 31 October. Further clashes are likely as demonstrators make their way to the capital. A sizeable security force presence is expected on the day of the demonstration in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and surrounds. It should be noted that there is a credible risk of violence at the scheduled protest. Furthermore, severe travel disruptions should be anticipated on the day.

Advice: Clients are advised against all non-essential travel to Islamabad. Clients in the capital on 2 November are advised to monitor local developments closely. Significant disruptions to business and travel should be anticipated. In addition, all protest action and concentrations of security forces should be avoided.

PHILIPPINES (Country risk rating: Medium); 29 October; South Korean national shot and killed in Baguio

A South Korean national was shot and killed by an unidentified assailant in Baguio, located in the northern Luzon region in the Philippines, on 29 October. The incident is said to have occurred while the victim was driving in the vicinity of the city; he later died while being treated at a local hospital in Baguio. A joint investigation into the incident has been launched by Philippine and South Korean authorities. The majority of both petty and violent crimes in the Philippines generally involve locals and occur in low-income neighbourhoods and major urban centres, where both opportunistic and organised criminal groups operate. There are concerns regarding an increase in criminality due to a vigorous anti-crime/narcotics campaign that President Rodrigo Duterte launched since taking office on 30 June. Thus far a significant number of people are believed to have been killed due to security force operations and alleged vigilante killings. Although foreign nationals are not especially targeted, there remains an incidental risk in the vicinity of such operations. Further such incidents remain possible.

Advice: Persons in the Philippines should be aware of the medium but increasing risk of violent crime in the country and should remain vigilant at all times. Clients should also limit travel at night, particularly in low-income areas, and maintain a low public profile. In addition, clients should closely review places of accommodation for their security features and location.

Europe and Russia

UNITED KINGDOM (Country risk rating: Low); 4 to 5 November; Strike to impact Southern railway services

Rail conductors and guards affiliated with the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union, and employed by the Southern railway operator in the UK, are set to initiate a 48-hour strike action on 4 and 5 November. The action is said to be related to an ongoing dispute regarding replacing guards with on-board supervisors, which will see drivers being responsible for the operation of carriage doors. While it is currently unclear how well the strike will be observed, disruptions to Southern railway services are anticipated. It should be noted that the strike may be extended or suspended on an ad hoc basis. Furthermore, given that the strike action is being undertaken as part of an ongoing labour dispute, further such strikes are possible in the short- to medium-term.

Advice: Persons intending to utilise Southern rail services on the affected days are advised to monitor local media for any updates regarding the strike. Travellers should contact the rail operator or their travel providers for updates on the status of available services.

Middle East and North Africa

MOROCCO (Country risk rating: Medium); 28 October; Further protests possible following death of fish vendor

Further protests are expected to take place in urban centres in Morocco in the near-term, following related protests there in recent days. The protests have been called by the 20 February Movement activist grouping, over the death of a street vendor in the town of al-Hoceima on 28 October. According to reports, police confiscated swordfish that he was selling; when he climbed into a trash compactor to retrieve the confiscated fish, he was crushed to death. Immediately following his death, protests were held in al-Hoceima, but on 30 and 31 October, protests were reported in several towns and cities, including Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier and the capital, Rabat. The demonstrations have thus far passed without major incident, although they have been well attended. However, there is a degree of anti-government sentiment associated with the protests, as it has been alleged the vendor's death was due to a police officer ordering the compactor to be put into operation while the former was still inside. Given this dynamic, the possibility of confrontations cannot be ruled out entirely.

Advice: Persons currently in or planning to be in Morocco in the near-term are advised to monitor local developments closely for announcements of further agitation. All protests should be avoided as a precautionary measure.

Sub-Saharan Africa

BOTSWANA (Country risk rating: Low); 30 and 31 October; Foreign national killed during robbery in Palapye

A South Korean national was killed after being shot during a robbery in a company's staff headquarters in Palapye, located 270km north east of Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, overnight on 30/31 October. Another South Korean national was wounded in the robbery. Further information is unavailable at present. The incident highlights the medium crime risk to both short- and long-term travellers. Serious criminal incidents are periodically reported, including armed robbery, residential burglary, vehicle theft and carjacking, particularly in Gaborone. Violent residential burglaries are a growing concern in the country; furthermore, various petty and violent crimes have been reported, during both night and day hours, particularly in areas frequented by foreign travellers, including markets and nightlife areas of large cities. These are less likely to affect foreign travellers if adequate security precautions are adopted. The majority of reported incidents are petty in nature; street crimes remain the most significant criminal threat to foreign nationals in Botswana.

Advice: Clients in Botswana should exercise heightened situational awareness and ensure that personal, travel and residential security measures are in place; these include being alert to suspicious behaviour, ensuring accommodation is secure and being prepared to let belongings go in the event of a robbery.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (Country risk rating: Extreme); 30 and 31 October; Clashes in PK5 district of Bangui

Over ten people have been killed during clashes in the PK5 neighbourhood of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), overnight on 30/31 October. Reports indicate that gunfire was exchanged between rival vigilante groups, and that a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) was fired. The clashes underscore the extreme-risk travel and operating environment that exists in the CAR, including in Bangui. The clashes also come amid a recent uptick in security incidents; on 27 October, gunmen conducted attacks along the Grimari to Bambari road, leaving at least ten people dead, including civilians and security personnel; on 26 October, a suspected Seleka militia faction conducted an attack in Grimari leaving 15 people dead and dozens more wounded, and on 24 October, protests in Bangui against the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) left four people dead. These incidents indicate a possible deterioration of the security environment, which comes amid the withdrawal of French troops operating under Operation Sangaris. Although 350 French troops from the operation will remain to assist the 10,000-strong MINUSCA forces, given a shortage of resources, manpower and a limited mandate, UN forces are constrained in their attempts in maintaining security in the country, and are unlikely to be able to compensate for the security vacuum resulting from the French withdrawal. UN troops and assets are assessed to be at an elevated risk of attack in the near-term due to accusations that UN forces have failed to provide security against militia attacks.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to the CAR. Persons operating in the country should travel with a security escort and reside in secure accommodation. Clients in Bangui should avoid the restive PK5 neighbourhood, and exercise particular caution in the vicinity of all MINUSCA interests over the short-term.

SOUTH AFRICA (Country risk rating: High); 2 November; Protests expected at magistrates' court in Pretoria

Members of civil society groups, as well as the Democratic Alliance (DA) opposition party, have called for a protest in the vicinity of the magistrates' court, in South Africa's capital, Pretoria, on 2 November. The action has been launched to demand the resignation of the president, Jacob Zuma. The protest was initially scheduled to coincide with the court appearance of the finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, former South African Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Oupa Magashula and former SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has since withdrawn the charges against the aforementioned individuals; however, the demonstration is planned to proceed as scheduled and is expected to be well attended. Furthermore, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party has also threatened to protest on the day, regarding other grievances related to the president. The action is reportedly also set to take place near the courthouse, at Church Square, from 08:00 local time. A heightened security presence is expected at the scheduled demonstration. It should be noted that clashes between police and protesters often occur at such agitations and cannot be discounted. Such incidents pose an indiscriminate risk to bystanders. Travel disruptions are also anticipated on the day. Furthermore, business operations may be disrupted if owners decide to keep businesses closed during the agitation, over fears of looting by protesters.

Advice: Clients in Pretoria on 2 November are advised to avoid the protest-affected area due to the risk of violence. Allowances should be made for anticipated travel disruptions. Heightened caution is advised in or near informal settlements (townships) due to the threats of crime and civil unrest in these areas.

SOUTH SUDAN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 1 November; Possible strike action at Juba International Airport

According to media reports, workers affiliated with the South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority have threatened strike action at Juba International Airport, in the capital, Juba, from 1 November. The workers have threatened to embark on the strike if their demands, relating to salaries and other issues, are not met. Thus far, there have been no confirmed reports of strike action impacting operations on 1 November. It is unclear how well observed the strike will be, should it proceed as scheduled. Nonetheless, disruptions to local, international and UN flights, including cancellations and delays, are possible during the day. In addition, should the striking employees' demands not be met, strike action is possible beyond 1 November.

Advice: Due to ongoing conflict and political instability, all travel to South Sudan is advised against. Passengers intending to transit Juba International Airport on 1 November are advised to contact their travel provider or the airline directly for further information on the status of their flight(s).