After the U.S State Department warned American citizens to be cautious about travel and movement in Liberia, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada is advising Canadians against non-essential travel in the area bordering Côte d’Ivoire.
This border area has been highly unstable in the past, and the presence of armed militias and the lack of proper security force patrols increase the risk to travellers.
During the day, travellers may circulate safely on the country’s roads, as well as in the capital, Monrovia. Incidents may occur when travelling at night.
“The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. Travellers are responsible for their own personal safety. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely advice in its Travel Reports,” the warning says.
In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location.
Canada will assist Canadians in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at the individual’s personal expense.
Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources, which can limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.
Canada’s travel warning described Liberia as one of the poorest countries in the world, suggesting that the difficult economic conditions in Monrovia and other cities may spur the development of various criminal activities.
The document asked Canadians in Liberia to carefully evaluate their personal security situation and exercise a high degree of caution.
It warned: “The crime level in Liberia is high, including in the capital. Muggings, armed assaults and theft are prevalent. As visitors have been targeted, Canadians should avoid walking alone and displaying any signs of affluence in public and should not leave valuables or bags unattended.
“Residential armed break-ins are also common. Crime significantly increases at night due to the lack of electricity in some parts of the capital.
“Violent crimes, including aggravated sexual assault and murder, routinely occur and have involved foreigners. Police forces can rarely offer protection and do not have the capacity to investigate and prosecute.”
Large demonstrations, often politically motivated, have happened in the past and there could be more. The tension that accompanied the presidential and legislative elections in October and November 2011 has subsided and has given way to a more stable environment. However, violence could still occur during public demonstrations. Travellers should avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
Secure tourist facilities and accomodation are very limited in Monrovia and there is little to no infrastructure outside the capital. Travel outside Monrovia and in rural areas is generally inadvisable.
There is no landline telephone system in the country. Mobile telecommunications exist in Monrovia and other major towns, however a lot of remote areas and stretches of road between major towns have no coverage. North American cell phones do not always work.
Water is not commercially available in Monrovia and there is no functioning sewage system. However, bottled water is available from many businesses.
Fuel shortages are common and transportation services are severely limited or inadequate in rural areas.
Canadians intending to travel to Liberia should carry valid official photo identification with them at all times, preferably a certified true copy of their passport’s identification page. Travellers should always maintain sufficient supplies of food, water and other essentials.