Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

Hostage taking and kidnapping

There is an increase worldwide in the number of foreign nationals being taken hostage or kidnapped, whether for terrorist, political, financial or other reasons. We recommend you carefully read our travel advice for the countries you intend visiting to obtain information on the known hostage taking and kidnapping threat posed in those countries and either reconsider your need to travel to areas of particular risk or ensure appropriate personal security measures are put in place to help mitigate the risks. 

New Zealand Government policy

It is New Zealand Government policy not to pay ransoms, or accede to hostage takers or kidnappers’ demands to modify its foreign, defence or security policies.

Security precautions

If you are in an area where there is a threat of hostage taking or kidnapping, we recommend you take the following security precautions:

  • Follow security advice issued by the local authorities, particularly any restrictions on travel to certain areas due to security concerns.
  • Seek professional security advice and ensure appropriate personal security measures are in place at all times.
  • Consider arranging close personal protection with a reputable security company familiar with the local security situation.
  • Take out kidnapping insurance.
  • Keep a low profile and vary your routines to avoid setting predictable patterns of movement, particularly around travel routes and times.
  • Avoid wearing or displaying items that appear valuable, such as mobile phones, cameras and jewellery, as kidnap and hostage victims may be targeted because of their perceived wealth.

Such security measures may help mitigate the risks of becoming a hostage or kidnapping victim but cannot eliminate them entirely.

Express Kidnappings

In some countries criminal groups are known to undertake “express kidnappings”.  Express kidnappings are when individuals are held captive for a relatively short period of time (often being released within 24 hours), while they are forced to withdraw the maximum amount of funds allowable from an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) to secure their release. Often these kidnappers target people while they are withdrawing cash from ATMs. To lower the risk of becoming an express kidnapping victim, we recommend using ATMs which are located inside banks, hotels and shopping centres during daylight hours.  Express kidnapping is more common in Central and South America, but also occurs elsewhere.

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