Russia Is Afraid Its Citizens Will Never Be Allowed To Come Home, Issues Travel Warning

Dmitry Valberg, Flickr

Travel warnings are issued for a variety of reasons, be it social and political unrest, the threat of terrorism or even health. But Russia has now found a new reason to warn people against travel: the fear of their citizens not being allowed to return home.

As reported by the New York Times, the Russian Foreign Ministry bulletin state: “Warning for Russian citizens traveling internationally … Recently, detentions of Russian citizens in various countries, at the request of American law enforcement, have become more frequent — with the goal of extradition and legal prosecution in the United States.”There’s no denying that extradition issues between Russia and the United States have heightened with the Edward Snowden case, but is the threat of detention and inability to return home really a fear for all Russian citizens? Probably not, but the Russian government does feel that its citizens get treated unfairly. From the Foreign Ministry: “Experience shows that the judicial proceedings against those who were in fact kidnapped and taken to the U.S. are of a biased character, based on shaky evidence, and clearly tilted toward conviction.”

The number of Russian tourists traveling around the world is increasing, up almost 25 percent from numbers in 2012. Only time will tell whether such government warnings will have an affect.

State Department Issues Travel Alert Over Potential Al-Qaeda Attack

State Department
U.S. Department of State

The State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert that Al-Qaeda is planning an attack in the Middle East or North Africa in the month of August.

The press release, which has not yet appeared on the State Department website [Update: Here’s the alert] but is reprinted by Business Insider in full, warns,

“The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula. Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August. This Travel Alert expires on August 31, 2013.”It adds, “We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens Traveling abroad enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.”

CNN is reporting that some U.S. embassies in the region, including those in Egypt and Israel, will close starting on Sunday for an unspecified length of time.

As of this writing, there is no detail about the nature of the threat.

Update: August 5, 10:07 a.m.
Nineteen U.S. diplomatic posts have also been closed, at least through this week.

Posts in 19 Countries to Remain Closed

Mexico: Safer But Not Safe Says Travel Warning

mexico

Troubled with crime, Mexico has been on the bad list of places to visit for quite some time. But the situation is improving. Murders of U.S. citizens are down. Drug-related violence seems limited to isolated areas of the country. But a new warning issued by the U.S. Department of State urges caution.

The State Department is warning travelers to “defer nonessential travel” to the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango and Tamaulipas in Mexico. The continuing concern involves Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) that are “engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity,” says the State Department warning.

The latest travel warning urged caution when visiting Mexico, including Mazatlan in the state of Sinaloa, saying travelers “should exercise extreme caution particularly late at night and in the early morning.”

Giving credit to an improving situation in Mexico, the State Department notes that 32 U.S. citizens were murdered in Mexico in the first six months of 2012, compared with 113 in all of 2011. Still, the number of kidnappings and disappearances throughout Mexico is of concern with both local and expatriate communities victimized.Casting a more positive light to illuminate efforts being taken to improve the situation, Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete of the Mexico Tourism Board said the protection of tourists “is at the pinnacle of importance to the Mexican government,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Indeed, festivals and events continue in Mexico and draw big crowds. Fifteen thousand people turned out for a mass yoga class in Mexico City, once a central location in the drug wars ravaging the country, now an area where no advisory is in place, as we see in this video:


[Photo Credit- Flickr user MattMawson]

Iceland volcano cancels flights

Iceland volcano, Grimsvotn
Here we go again.

After last year’s misery from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, now another Icelandic volcano, Grimsvötn, is causing a new round of worries.

More than 250 flights have already been canceled as a cloud of volcanic ash blows over Scotland. Most of Ireland, northern Wales, and northern England will see the ash later today.

Several Scottish airports have been affected, including major ones such as Edinburgh and Glasgow. Other airports that will likely have problems today include Londonderry, Prestwick, Durham Tees Valley, Newcastle, and Carlisle. Officials say the cloud should move on and flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow will resume this afternoon. Airports in the far north of Scotland should get the all-clear tomorrow. Of course, that’s assuming there are no more eruptions or changes in the wind.

Luckily the wind has taken much of the ash away from populated areas, over the far north Atlantic, eastern Greenland, and north of Scandinavia.

Several airlines are not flying through Scottish airspace. You can see a full list here. Since the northerly route between Europe and North America passes through the ash cloud, transatlantic flights may have to be diverted, causing delays. Check ahead before going to the airport.

So far this doesn’t look like another Eyjafjallajökull. The Grimsvötn eruption is smaller and the ash particles are bigger, meaning they fall to earth more quickly instead of hanging in the atmosphere for days.

Have your travel plans been affected by the Grimsvötn eruption? Tell us about it in the comments section!

[Photo courtesy Roger McLassus]

Sections of Mexico unsafe for travel, consulate issues warning

mexico unsafe for travelJust when we thought it might be safe to travel to Mexico again, more bodies found in mass graves prompt a new travel warning for U.S. citizens and law enforcement. Mexican authorities have charged 14 people in connection with bodies found in newly-discovered mass graves warning us that parts of Mexico are still unsafe for travel.

The story starts back to August of last year when bodies were found in mass graves at a ranch in San Fernando, Tamaulipas in Mexico, just 90 miles south of Brownsville, Texas. Buses heading north towards the U.S. were stopped and boarded by gunmen who demanded identification then took Mexican national passengers away. Authorities have not confirmed but believe the intent was to hold them for ransom or use them to smuggle drugs into the U.S. 72 bodies were found then.

Last week, 59 bodies were found on Wednesday then another 13 more bodies were found on Friday at the same ranch. Bus lines followed the lead from cruise lines to cancel routes into the troubled area sparking demonstrations around Mexico. Protesters condemned the drug gangs themselves and the Mexican government’s war on drug gangs.

“The investigation is in progress and we must be very careful, especially not to cause alarm among the population that is worried about the whereabouts of their loved ones, but we can deduce that, unfortunately, that they are fellow Mexicans,” said Morelos Canseco Gomez, a top security official in the northern state of Tamaulipas reports CNN.

If you have been keeping up with the news you know that Mazatlan, Mexico has been in the spotlight recently as cruise lines stopped calling there over safety concerns. Gadling readers both agree and disagree with the decision by major cruise lines to stop calling in Mazatlan and the general safety level in the country saying:

“There is no place in Mexico that is safe right now. Death is random as well as directed toward a target. Collateral damage happens anywhere there is some beef between these diablos”

“I’m glad to see some cruise lines are not putting their passengers and crew in harms way by avoiding certain vacation destinations. As tourists we should withhold our travel dollars until safety and security become a necessity and not a luxury.”

“Americans are being targeted in Mexico — and murdered. These murders are occurring in taxis, at airports, and on the streets. Rich Americans are fleeing Mexico for their lives.”

“I agree stay the hell away from Mexico…i went there in November and all you do is get hassled to buy stuff…drug…whores…anything”

Here is the travel alert issued late Friday by U.S. consulate officials:

“The United States Consulates General in Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, and Monterrey advise American citizens that the U.S. government has received uncorroborated information that Mexican criminal gangs may intend to attack U.S. law enforcement officers or U.S. citizens in the near future in Tamaulipas, Nuevo León and San Luis Potosi. This information is being distributed to all U.S. government employees in the three states. No other information is available. If more detailed information is developed, we will advise American citizens immediately.”


As Mexico’s war against drugs continues, look for travel alerts and warnings to continue also. be prepared for transportation companies to cancel routes and itineraries too, also concerned over the safety of their personnel and passengers. How much of that will happen is uncertain, but many agree, Mexico needs to gain control of the situation for the protection of it’s citizens and visitors.

“The mass graves found yesterday once again show the Mexican government’s failure to deal with the country’s public security crisis and reduce criminal violence, which has left many populations vulnerable to attacks, abductions and killings,” said Rupert Knox, a researcher on Mexico at Amnesty International told CNN. “All too often, such human rights crimes have gone unpunished, leaving criminal gangs and officials acting in collusion with them free to target vulnerable communities, such as irregular migrants.”

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