Article by Mark Lowe
While considerable attention is being paid to the rise in tensions between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China, the U.S. Department of State has issued a harsh advisory regarding American citizens residing or travelling in Russia.
Almost a year ago, on February 20th 2022, the United States embassy in Moscow cautioned American citizens in Russia to prepare evacuation plans as the crisis over Ukraine deepened. Further warnings were issued during the year, the last significant advisory being issued in September 2022.
Since then the situation has further degenerated leading to the Department of State issuing its strongest advisory yet: American citizens, including dual nationals, should leave Russia immediately.
Amongst other considerations, Washington fears that the consequences of the war in Ukraine may lead to the risk of arbitrary arrest or harassment of American citizens on the part of Russian law enforcement agencies.
On February 12th 2023, this fear led the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to issue a strongly worded advisory stating that U.S. citizens residing or travelling in Russia should depart immediately.
Citing Washington’s principal concern, the advisory specified that U.S. nationals should "Exercise increased caution due to the risk of wrongful detentions."
While the risk to American citizens has been clearly specified in the Department of State’s warning, other nations have not followed suit notwithstanding the fact that the risk of arbitrary arrest or harassment is by no means isolated to those holding a blue passport with an eagle emblazoned on its cover.
European citizens are also at risk and this implies the implementation of a series of considerations that should be part of an organisation’s Travel Risk Management procedures. Although very few European citizens are travelling to Russia, the risk cannot be ignored, in fact it is particularly accentuated by exactly the fact that so few are visiting the country.
The geopolitical risks are not confined to Russia, indeed the recent rise in tensions between the United States and the People’s Republic of China following the invasion of American airspace by a Chinese unmanned airship have further accentuated an already delicate situation.
While Beijing has repeated on a number of occasions that the entry of the Chinese unmanned airship into U.S. airspace was a purely unintended, unexpected and isolated event caused by force majeure, Washington views the situation diversely.
China has criticised the United States for its “trigger-happy overreaction” in downing the unmanned airship with advanced missiles adding that “As a matter of fact, it is the United States who is the number one surveillance country and has the largest spy network in the world.”
While we wait for the situation to reach the next phase of its development, the reciprocal accusations are anything but good news for those travelling to China.
Care should be exercised in particular by those who are dual European-American passport holders or whose companies have joint ventures or business interests in the United States.
While the geopolitical spats are dominating the headlines, political instability is rampant around the world bringing with it the requirement to closely study developments and update mitigation and management policies and procedures.
No stranger to political instability, Africa is once again rife with situations that have the potential to worsen. The importance of Nigeria’s forthcoming elections to both the country and the wider region are testament to this in the same way that political instability and infighting remain major hindrances to South Africa’s economic growth.
Economic growth generally brings stability and with this a less challenging operating environment in which opportunities can be explored with less risks and greater freedom of movement.
Returning to Asia, one example of heightened political instability and uncertainty is Pakistan. As the country edges ever closer to debt default, political turmoil and unrest appear to be on a collision course from which very little of positive can be expected.
Currently Islamabad is facing its greatest crisis of the modern era, the country’s economy is facing total collapse in a manner similar to that of its neighbour Sri Lanka. Its politicians are engaged in a violent power struggle, while an emboldened Taliban-affiliated terror group is laying siege to the country’s west and north.
While in terms of travel most of the particularly dangerous areas of the country are of little interest to European countries, there is not reason to be complacent in the major cities where unrest, power strikes and general outages can cause major problems to anyone visiting them.
Asia and Africa are far from being alone, the violent protests that have shaken Peru since President Pedro Castillo was removed from office in December 2022 are a serious issue of concern for business travellers.
Almost 60 civilians have died in the unrest that erupted across the country in December 2022: most were victims of gunshot wounds.
The bottom line is not that of taking current situations into consideration but of exercising a heightened level of risk awareness.
While we are aware of the fact that certain situations, such as Nigeria’s forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, need to be closely monitored, the same applies for other countries or regions where a relatively stable scenario could change rapidly.
This implies closely monitoring the countries that travellers intend visiting and reviewing mitigation and incident response capabilities in order to assure that they are both updated and robust.
If you would like to know more about how Pyramid Temi Group can support your organisation, contact us and our experts will be glad to assist.
In the global broadcaster's Travel section of their website, CNN published an article earlier today that raises an important question: "What travel warnings do other nations give their citizens about US violence?"(Link to the article HERE).
Without any doubt the article has been prompted by the latest mass shooting: last Monday at least seven people were killed in two shootings in the San Francisco Bay area.
There were but the latest in a year that has already been characterised by 39 mass shootings in only three weeks.
It is well known that the United States of America is awash with legally and illegally detained arms, however, the figures are astounding: according to an estimate by the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey, there are about 393 million privately owned firearms in the US.
While the exact number of firearms owned by civilians is extremely difficult to calculate due to a variety of factors including unregistered weapons and the illegal trade in firearms, the Small Arms Survey's estimates means that there are 120 guns for every 100 American citizens.
The sobering truth is that no other nation has more civilian firearms than citizens.
Two statistics put the reality of gun ownership and use into context: the first is that according to a Gallup survey conducted in October 2022, almost 45% of US adults stated that they lived in a household with a gun, the second is that according to the december 2022 edition of Pediatrics - the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, firearm injuries are now the leading cause of death among people younger than 24 in the United States.
Exactly what defines a mass shooting depends on whom you ask, for example the Federal Bureau of Investigation considers a "mass killing" as "three or more killings in a single incident."
Others define a mass shooting as one in which more than four people are killed or injured, in any case the simple fact is that, according to the Gun Violence Archive, mass shootings in the United States are increasing.
While mass shootings attract worldwide attention, the same cannot be said for incidents in which firearms are used during robberies or other criminal acts. Unfortunately, as per mass shootings, these incidents are also on the rise.
While statistics indicate that international travellers are highly unlikely to be involved in a mass shooting, the same cannot be said for other scenarios such as opportune crimes - a mugging or a street robbery, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
While both cases are difficult to predict, there are ways to lower the visitor's exposure to gun crime. Avoiding dimly lit or empty streets and remaining in central areas and avoiding those parts of a town or city that have higher crime rates are the two most obvious.
Less obvious considerations are, for example, avoiding visits to local grocery stores in the evening when the likelihood of an armed robbery is higher.
Situational awareness is fundamental, travellers must be aware of their surroundings and avoid areas that they should not find themselves in. When in a shopping mall, restaurant or bar visitors should make themselves familiar with potential escape routes and hiding places.
These are a few considerations that serve the purpose of illustrating considerations that should be integrated into an organisation's Travel Risk Management training programmes.
CNN Travel's "What travel warnings do other nations give their citizens about US violence?" article focused on different governments' advice to their citizens intending to travel to the United States.
As the analysis illustrates, the advice is varied but the risk of gun related crime has been highlighted on all of the websites examined by CNN Travel.
Pyramid Temi Group strongly advises organisations to brief their personnel in detail as to the risk of violent crime in general but including a special focus on gun crimes.
Travellers should be made aware of the risk and the correct procedures to mitigate against the danger. Advice should also be given in regards as to the most correct actions to be taken in a number of situations that range from being threatened with a gun during a robbery to being involved in a mass shooting.
Organisations should also have robust emergency plans to deal with a situation in which an employee or representative has been involved in any form of violent crime.
Article by Mark Lowe
English translation of the article published on Travel for business.
On announcing that the Collins Dictionary's word of the year was Permacrisis - a word describing the feeling of living through a period of war, inflation, and political instability - Alex Beecroft, the Head of Collins Learning, stated that it "sums up just how truly awful 2022 has been for so many people".
Looking back over the past year it is difficult to fault Beecroft, however, we also have to look towards the future and by all accounts it doesn’t look good.
December is traditionally the month in which all of the leading risk analysts, insurance companies and geopolitical intelligence specialists publish their forecasts. This year they are unanimous in forecasting ever greater challenges both in terms of existing situations and in terms of emerging crises.
Amongst the top risks are an increase in cyber attacks and cyber disruptions, climate change, geopolitical instability, and political violence.
While we are all more than familiar with these risks, the question is what relevance do they have in Travel Risk Management?
To answer this important question, this article will examine some of the top risk scenarios and put them into the context of Travel Risk Management concerns and critical issues.
While a detailed analysis is outside the scope of this article, a number of key concerns can be identified and thus raise attention as to the potential mitigation strategies that can be developed and implemented.
Cyber attacks and cyber disruptions
The difference between an attack and a disruption is often very slim, however, it is worth making a precise distinction. Unfortunately the Cyber community has very differing views on the precise definition of both one and the other.
For the purposes of a Travel Risk Manager we can define the two interruptions as a cyber attack as being a malicious act aimed at causing damage or holding a network to ransom while a cyber disruption, when not unintentional, is of less damage and is generally resolved in a short period of time.
Cyber experts also agree that a cyber disruption can on occasions be a demonstration of force or a test on the part of a malevolent player.
So how can a cyber incident affect our travel plans or impact the security of our travellers?
One extreme case would be an attack on Air Traffic Control (ATC) systems, either a direct intrusion aimed at putting the systems out of action or the cutting of electricity supplies to ATC infrastructure.
While it is unlikely that aeroplanes in flight would be at imminent risk, those landing or taking off at the moment of the attack or disruption would be particularly vulnerable.
At the very least the service disruption would cause huge backlogs and delays to air transport in the areas directly affected by the cyber incident.
A less dramatic example would be the disruption of an airport's internal communications systems or its ability to process luggage.
Other areas that could be impacted are telecommunications networks, the energy sector, public transport, and the banking and financial sectors.
What are your contingency plans in the case of massive delays to air transport? What procedures do you have in place to deal with the inability to process a credit card while checking out of a hotel? How will your travellers communicate with you in the event of a telecoms blackout? These are only some of the questions that Travel Risk Managers should be asking themselves while considering the potential impact of cyber incidents.
When reasoning in terms of climate change, we all have our very own and oft diverse opinions. However, there are a number of considerations on which Travel Risk Managers will agree.
The most obvious is the risk of extreme or catastrophic weather events, for example violent and prolonged rainfall causing landslides or extreme snowfall impacing transport networks.
There are, however, some less obvious considerations such as the impact of drought on a country’s stability.
Drought can be the indirect cause of greater criminality when those fleeing the countryside for the large cities find that it is extremely difficult to integrate.
Drought causes food scarcity and impacts prices, in poorer nations this can lead to political violence when the nation’s government is not perceived as managing the crisis efficiently.
Again we have to ask ourselves what our risk exposure is and what we should do in order to minimise and manage it.
Do we have the necessary information that will allow us to understand the situations in the countries that we are working in and have we used that information to create specific scenarios that can be analysed in order to develop mitigation procedures?
While many argue that Geopolitics is a concept that belongs to other times, it is not in our interests to devote time to academic debate and therefore we should accept Geopolitical risk as meaning risks posed by events determined by international disruptors.
A vague, all inclusive definition but one that fits the purpose: geopolitical risk is any change that is the direct or indirect result of one or more states implementing specific actions that disrupt the status quo.
Wars and invasions are the most obvious examples, however, trade wars and economic warfare are also potential risks to our travellers.
Trade wars can raise tensions and create difficulties for those holding the passport of a nation perceived as an aggressor. Simply living in a similar country or working for a company based in a similar country can be enough to create problems.
Business travellers can be exposed to greater scrutiny while entering or exiting a country that perceives some form of tort in regards to their or their company’s nationality.
Scrutiny can also be extended to their movements and meetings while in the destination country.
In some cases scrutiny can become a far greater issue, arrests and state detentions are not uncommon due to the fact that they generally produce results.
What advice do we have for our travellers and what procedures do we have in place to assist them? What would we do in the case of a state detention or an unlawful arrest? Do we have legal support in loco, do we have a procedure in place to deal with the family and the media?
Unfortunately we are all very familiar with the risk of terrorist events, fortunately, apart from some specific scenarios, they are not on the rise.
Nevertheless we cannot ignore the threat and we certainly cannot afford the risk of falling into the trap of complacency therefore we must have procedures in place to train our people, mitigate the risk, and, in a worst case scenario, manage an incident.
While terrorism poses a series of very clear risks, less known and understood are the potential damages caused by other forms of political violence.
Rising poverty levels, ever greater inflation, food insecurity, and distrust of governments all combine to create popular dissatisfaction which can result in violent demonstrations or targeted attacks on specific assets or premises.
Practically all of the analysts agree that 2023 will see a considerable rise in political violence and therefore it is essential that we understand the risk and that we closely monitor countries and cities at risk.
Again we have to address the issue of training and procedures, what do we have in place, is it enough, is it updated, are we missing anything?
We also have to address the means by which we monitor emerging scenarios and our capability to interpret this information into a form that allows us to make the best decisions.
Travel Risk Management has always presented a series of challenges and over the years we have developed policies and procedures to deal with them. On many occasions these strategies have proven extremely robust and efficient, in other cases we have had to examine what needs to be improved.
What the coming year will present as the major challenge is our ability to closely monitor evolving scenarios and react in advance. We will have to review our procedures in accordance to a logic of ‘permacrisis’ and this will require time and dedication.
Fortunately dedication and commitment are not lacking, unfortunately, time is not on our side.
The two explosions that killed one person and injured fourteen others this morning in Jerusalem highlight the constant risk of terrorism.
Today’s blasts targeted public transport, two busy bus stops were targeted in one of the most significant attacks of their kind in years.
While the risk in some countries is greater than in others, very few cities are immune to the threat of indiscriminate acts of violence, indeed buses and trains in London, Madrid, Moscow, Paris, Tokyo, and dozens of other cities have been the targets of terrorist attacks in recent years.
All of these attacks prompted calls for increased efforts to make public transit systems safe from terrorists. These calls for action are often based on the assumption that public transit systems, or transportation and infrastructure systems in general, are the focus of the problem and thus should be the focus for policymaking and action.
While the transit security sector has devised and implemented a whole series of important measures over the past years, the core problem remains that of securing infrastructure that by definition has to be easily accessible.
To identify risk mitigation strategies and the advice for our travelling populations we need first to understand the problem itself and to this end we need to divide the risk into blocks.
Public transport is of interest to terrorists in three principal ways:
When public transportation is the means by which a terrorist attack is executed. For example the use of buses or trains to convey explosive devices;
When public transportation is the specific target of a terrorist attack. For example the objective of exacting economic costs or attracting attention by targeting railways, tunnels or bridges; and
When the crowds that public transportation generates are the focus of a terrorist attack.
In the first two cases there is little that can be done to mitigate the risk other than to prohibit the use of public transport - something extremely difficult to do as both railway stations and airports are used on a daily basis by the travelling population.
While the threat of being involved in a terrorist attack cannot be eliminated, in the third case we can implement measures to reduce the risk.
As a number of suicide bomb attacks have highlited, crowds are the target and it is exactly here that we should begin to work on devising mitigation protocols.
Airports and railway stations are locations in which large numbers of people congregate in often small or enclosed spaces - the ideal target for a terrorist attack.
Have we trained our people in regards to how to navigate airports or railway stations? Do our travellers have a firm understanding of why in one case they should arrive well in advance and in the other avoid arriving too early?
Have we approved as a Travel Risk Management procedure the use of ‘fast tracks’ and, above all, do we run refresher courses and do we implement measures focused on reducing the risk of complacency?
In the case of a terrorist attack do we know where our people are and how to communicate with them? (Learn more here)
These are only a select few of the considerations that Travel Risk Managers should be making. The world is not getting any safer and our travel requirements are increasing, monitoring risk scenarios is fundamental but training and updating our travellers equally so.
If you would like to know more about how we can support your organisation, contact us and our experts will be glad to assist.
Irrespective of the who and the why behind the explosion on Sunday 13th November in Istanbul’s popular pedestrian thoroughfare İstiklal Avenue, the atrocity serves as a reminder that the risk of terrorist violence is ever present.
This obliges us to reflect on an organisation’s responsibilities towards travellers: what level of training are they given, do we know exactly where they are at any given time, do we possess the ability to intervene immediately?
The first observation is that although terrorist attacks are extremely hard to predict (at best analysts can identify a heightened risk and, on occasions, the areas and periods most likely to be at the centre of an act of violence), we have to recognise our duty in preparing staff for the eventuality of being in a location impacted by an act of terrorist violence.
In addition to preparing staff, we also have to develop and implement the procedures necessary to fully assisting and supporting them in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack.
First and foremost every effort has to be made to monitor heightened threat levels, a task that requires constant attention and one that will also provide key information elements when it comes to authorising or otherwise a business trip.
Employees must be educated and briefed as to potential risks, the onus in this stage is not only training them in regards to maintaining a high level of awareness, but offering precise and easily understood and remembered advice as to best practices in the event of being in the vicinity of an attack.
Travellers should be aware of areas and scenarios to avoid, for example quarters hosting government buildings, significant political or historical sites, and areas characterised by the buildup of large numbers of people. Three classic scenarios favoured by terrorists.
Employees also need to know exactly what to do on the aftermath of a terrorist event, alerting the company as to their conditions isn’t the first consideration, this should only come after the traveller has safely extracted themselves from the area interested by the event and have reached a safe location.
There is an unwritten rule amongst pilots: aviate, navigate and communicate. A rule that can be adapted to travel risk management: aviate - keep going, navigate - understand where you are and where you have to go, and only after this communicate - update the company as to your conditions.
Communications may be down, the mobile telephone network might be suspended to allow full access to the emergency services or to disrupt communications between those responsible for an attack. In this case what is Plan B and is there a Plan C?
Social media may also be suspended in order to avoid the diffusion of unverified information and thus mitigate the potential damage that false information might cause. However, information will always filter through any thus the danger that relatives acquire distorted information is a risk. What are the plans for dealing with relatives, have they been taken into consideration? Simply reiterating the line that “All we know at the moment is what we have acquired from official news channels” is not going to be sufficient in these cases.
Going back to our people on the ground, they will be scared and they will need a series of reassurances as well as practical support. What does the organisation have in place in regards to assisting them in practical and psychological terms?
Once their status has been ascertained and the requirement for medical treatment eliminated, what procedures and criteria are used before deciding the next step: do they remain in place or should they be evacuated?
These are only a few of the considerations that we have to focus on when planning our travel risk management procedures and capabilities, however, the suffice to underline the importance of forward planning, training, situation awareness, communications, and decision making capabilities.
Even if the bottom line is that terrorist attacks cannot be predicted with any precision at all, organisations must consider them a threat and thus an eventuality that has to be planned for in order to manage them successfully.
At Pyramid Temi Group we have considerable experience in assisting organisations navigate the challenges of operating internationally, if you would like to know more about how we can support your organisation, contact us and our experts will be glad to assist.
In September 1982, the English punk rock band The Clash released one of their most successful songs: "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?"
Fast forward almost exactly forty years and this is exactly the question that a number of individuals are asking themselves in regards to visiting Nigeria.
Over the past weekend both the United States and the United Kingdom issued travel warnings regarding possible terrorist attacks.
The U.S. Embassy in Nigeria specified that "there is an elevated risk of terror attacks in Nigeria, specifically Abuja", adding that shopping malls, law enforcement facilities and international organisations were amongst potential targets.
Both Washington and London believe that other potential targets include government buildings, places of worship and schools and have advised their citizens to stay alert due to an "increased threat of terrorist attacks in Abuja” warning that "Attacks could be indiscriminate and could affect western interests.”
So what should be done in the case of having a business meeting planned over the next few days or having accepted an invitation to speak next Thursday at an international conference in Abuja?
How do you answer the question "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?"
The first step would seem the most obvious: what does our Travel Security Policy state and what do our Travel Risk Management procedures stipulate?
Without any doubt, the first evaluation that an organisation’s Travel Risk Management procedures will specify is “Can the trip be postponed?” Only after this will the procedures move on to the risk/benefit ratio which will then be evaluated in accordance to the organisation’s risk appetite.
Obviously before any risk/benefit ratio can be calculated reliable, precise and updated information is required and this is where a major hurdle might have to be addressed: do we have access to this information?
Assuming that access to said information is available the next step will be to evaluate the additional security measures that the current situation requires. This will in part be covered in the organisation’s Travel Risk Management procedures but in all probability local expert advice will be required. Does your organisation have access to specialist support in Abuja?
What the American and British travel alert highlights is that, even if insecurity is a well-known and understood problem in Nigeria, the situation can deteriorate from one day to the next and therefore organisations with local interests must absolutely have access to specialist advice and support.
Hopefully, one memorable line from Mick Jones’ 1982 hit will not always be the case but it is worth bearing in mind and reflecting on before making the decision to travel: “If I go, there will be trouble.”
When your trip is only two days away and your visa expires in thirty days time, it’s too late to start looking for the necessary advice and assistance. Make certain that you have a reliable advisor who will keep you out of Jones’ “trouble”.
If you would like to know more about how Pyramid Temi Group can assist your organisation with worldwide Travel Risk Management solutions, contact us and our experts will be glad to assist.
Have you considered what the impact of a kidnapping, abduction or imprisonment of one of your staff members would have on your organisation? What would the consequences be and how would you deal with the situation? What if the scenario was one of state detention, a case in which your staff member was detained on spurious rather than authentic charges?
Unfortunately similar risks are increasing and thus organisations have to address the key issues of how to avoid them and, in a worst case scenario, how to manage them.
In this article we will focus on state detentions and specifically those based on political objectives, however, a number of the issues raised in this analysis are applicable to kidnappings and abductions in general.
What constitutes a state detention?
First and foremost a clear distinction has to be made between political kidnappings and state detentions. For the purpose of this analysis we shall consider political kidnappings to be crimes committed by, for example, a terrorist or rebel group with the intention of benefitting from the release of prisoners held by a state or other similar concessions. State detentions are, as the definition clearly states, actions conducted by government agencies of a de facto state.
Over the past few years we have noticed an increase in the detention of foreign citizens based on the political goals of nations as diverse as China, Iran and Russia.
Said goals vary and on occasions can simply be tit for tat measures in response to a perceived tort. For example the 2018 arrest in China of the Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on espionage charges, a detention that created the basis for the release of Chinese citizen and Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou who had been placed under house arrest in Canada while awaiting extradition to the United States of America to face fraud charges.
The swap brought to an end a damaging diplomatic row between Beijing, Ottawa and Washington and served as a stark message to western companies: where necessary, representatives of western companies will be detained in an effort to obtain political goals.
The scenario that you will be working in
The issue of state detentions as representing unlawful detention is purely academic: the simple fact is that a member of your organisation is being held in a foreign country on a pretext or on fabricated accusations.
To compound difficulties, very often this will be in a country with a complicated judicial framework and the detention itself managed via a less than transparent process.
The first issue that your organisation will have to deal with is understanding what is happening and then understanding what this means for the organisation in terms of both direct and indirect consequences.
The most direct consequence is that someone will have to take over the individual’s role, continuity will be fundamental to the organisation.
Indirect consequences will be of a reputational nature for example, an issue that not all organisations are prepared for.
Your organisation will have to deal with family members, staff, the media, and the authorities.
The Farnesina will require a considerable amount of information, not simply details of eventual medical conditions and personal background and circumstances but also precise explanations as to why they were in the country, who they were dealing with, who they had met with, and a number of other important information elements.
All of this while the media are calling, gathering under your offices and trying anyway possible to interview management, employees and family members.
Are you prepared for this? In a great many cases the answer is going to be no.
The situation may last for a long time, the Canadian citizens cited above were held in China for almost three years. However, irrespective of the duration, you will be dealing with a highly difficult situation in which you are going to require outside assistance, for example advice on internal and external communications to cite just one.
Mitigate or manage?
The most obvious answer to this question is mitigate. To this end we asked Pyramid Temi Group’s CEO Roger Warwick to offer some advice on what organisations can do to reduce their exposure to the risk of state detention:
“The first answer, as always, is preparation: what do we know about the country that we’ll be visiting, have we been monitoring emerging situations, do we have reason to believe that this might not be the right moment to send someone down there?”
So country intelligence is the starting point, but in the case of approving a transfer what practical considerations do we have to make?
“If a visit is approved then we have to brief the individual, or individuals, as to what to expect and how to prepare for it. In this briefing we’ll cover a series of very different considerations but for the purpose of focusing on state detentions I’d highlight the following consideration as an example: first and foremost do not under any circumstances give anyone the suspicion that you’re there for anything else than business, and this includes any display of opinions or ideas on local politics, religion or international affairs. Obvious? Probably so but how many travellers fail to stick to this rule?”
“Another issue that might seem like a scene from a spy movie, but you can take my word that it happens in real life, is targeting. Our business travellers have to be aware of the fact that they can be specifically targeted, the objective is to compromise them. We cover this in detail during one of our course modules, some people are surprised while others tell us that they’d been approached while in country x, y or z. It’s always interesting to listen to their stories.”
And what do you advise people to do in these cases?
“Extract themselves from the situation, you can always say that you have an appointment to respect, a telephone call to make or any number of other credible excuses.”
WIll this be sufficient?
”Every case is unique, it could very well be that the person trying to make friends with you is simply another business person that wanted a conversation to pass the time, a bar conversation, nothing sinister at all. However, the bottom line is that you do not want to be involved.”
What about a situation in which agents of a government agency approach you, for example while passing through security at an airport?
“Well here we raise another issue, certainly you cannot refuse to answer questions and you cannot refuse to hand over your computer or telephone in which case you’re going to have to be certain that nothing on either of these devices could compromise you.”
“Well comments and posts on social media are the most obvious, basically you shouldn’t have a social media profile at all if you’re visiting at-risk countries.”
“Think also about the contact list on your telephone or in your email account, is there anyone in there from a country that’s considered an enemy of the state you’re in? The bottom line is very simple, you take mobile devices that are clean, that only have the contacts that you need while away, your office colleagues, your hotel, the numbers of those who you will be visiting. Make sure that the only email account is your corporate account.”
But what if they ask details of your social media profile or personal email account?
“Well in that case, and it's something that happens to a lot of people, you’re just going to have to hope that you remembered to double check before leaving that there’s nothing on either that could put you in a difficult situation.”
Easier said than done perhaps?
“I’d disagree, all of this can be done. Going back to our courses, it’s one of the many issues that we address. We need individuals and organisations to have a firm understanding of best practices, I'd ask them to maintain them on a continual basis. Before you leave prepare in accordance with company procedures but above all stick to our security culture.”
And what if you do have to travel to a higher or high risk destination?
“Well first and foremost we should fall back on company procedures and the support and advice that our Travel Security Manager will be able to offer us. They will recognise the fact that a state detention risk exists in a number of countries and that they can be targeted or opportunistic, to this end they will focus on a full risk assessment and define the necessary pre-travel preparations.”
What if you don’t have a Travel Risk Manager or a suitably prepared security manager?
“Well then your only option is to raise the issue with management. Speak with your superior and raise the question with Human Resources. Let me be clear on this, not everyone has access to a Travel Risk Manager, not every organisation has the necessary travel security procedures, however, as we navigate towards an ever more insecure global environment it is essential that we address and resolve the question of implementing best practices. With the publication of the ISO31030 there is no longer any reason to delay the introduction of a robust travel risk management system.”
Pyramid Temi Group are delighted to announce that they have achieved International Code of Conduct Association (ICoCA) Certification status.
A founding member of ICoCA, Pyramid Temi Group are now the only company in Italy to have achieved certification status.
Pyramid Temi Group’s CEO Roger Warwick said that: “ICoCA certification provides the assurance that all of our procedures and practices comply with the ICoCA code. This is of particular importance in terms of our focus on quality and ethical practices as well as representing a guarantee to clients in their due diligence on security providers.”
The ICoCA International Code of Conduct requires companies to adhere to the highest professional standards including a full respect and understanding of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Certified companies are regularly monitored in regards to the adherence to the highest standards and their continual improvement through guidance and training on the Code.
According to Warwick: “We’re very happy to observe that the number of clients requiring ICoCA Certification in their tender specifications continues to grow. This is very good news as it indicates that C-Suite and Security Managers are ever more focused on engaging the services of professional security providers.”
Based in Geneva, ICoCA works with member companies to build their capacity to guarantee respect for international human rights and humanitarian law as well as providing thought-leadership on responsible security.
“We have always placed great importance on responsible security, the respect of international and national laws, as well as the respect of human rights. This has always been part of our DNA and we only work with partners that share our commitment to the provision of ethical professional services.”
Pyramid Temi Group’s CEO added that :“Today no responsible organisation can ignore their duty to assure full compliance with ethical and professional standards, this applies to their own activities as much as it applies to those of their suppliers and it is exactly here that the ICoCA Code of Conduct comes into play. It’s not enough for a company executive to say that their provider stated that they adhered to best practices, it is essential that this can be demonstrated and ICoCA certification does exactly this.”
Pyramid Temi Group were also instrumental to the development of the recently published ISO 31030 Travel Risk Management guidelines. The international standard makes specific reference to Compliance and the importance of conducting full and proper due diligence on security service providers.
On the convergence of ICoCA and ISO31030, Warwick noted that: “Organisations are now in a far better place when it comes to compliance, ISO31030 represents a series of robust guidelines for building travel risk management capacities while ICoCA certification greatly assists organisations choose a reliable provider.”
As part of our continuing attention to social issues and pro bono support to voluntary organisations, Pyramid Temi Group (PTG) had the pleasure of delivering a digital workshop to the Polish, Romanian and Moldavian chapters of Junior Chamber International (JCI).
Founded in 1915 and with members from over 100 countries, the JCI is the world’s largest organisation of young professionals and business people focused on offering community services. JCI volunteers are currently organising support services to those fleeing the conflict in the Ukraine and organising the collection and delivery of emergency aid.
On Wednesday 9th March, our Senior Security Consultant and training specialist Mark William Lowe delivered a practical workshop on emergency evacuation procedures to a large group of JCI members.
The workshop was specifically prepared for an audience of non security specialists and focused on putting those concerned as to a potential expansion of the conflict in the conditions to organise themselves well in advance.
Great emphasis was placed on preparation, teamwork, the development of procedures, psychological issues, situational awareness and the importance of identifying and understanding the red flags and red lines that would trigger specific elements of the evacuation plan.
The workshop was followed by a long and detailed question and answer session during which a number of important key concerns were raised and discussed in detail.
Roger Warwick, PTG’s Founder and CEO, commented that: “First and foremost I have to say that I’m very impressed by how the JCI are supporting those in need, they’re doing some very necessary work by delivering different forms of assistance very efficiently.”
“Our first concern was that of understanding JCI’s precise requirements, what do these young people need to know, what concerns do they have and how can we help them. Fortunately JCI’s management structure were able to advice is as to their members’ key concerns and that allowed us to identify the subject areas that we needed to address".
“It was quite obvious that we’d have to adapt our normal training format to that required by a completely new audience so we analysed how we could deliver our advice in a very direct and detailed fashion but in full respect of the concept of ‘preparing, not scaring’ and I have to say that it was a challenge but the results were very positive.”
Pyramid Temi Group will continue to support organisations involved in voluntary work, please contact us if you would like to know how we can assist you.
Pyramid Temi Group has received first hand accounts of the harassment of business travellers leaving the Russian Federation.
Over the past few days a number of European citizens leaving the Russian Federation by air and land routes have undergone detailed inspections of their mobile devices (PCs, tablets and smartphones).
Officials at airport security and border crossings have inspected mobile devices with the objective of verifying the use of social media to make comments perceived as being ‘anti-Russian’.
It is to be noted that Russia has recently enacted a law to punish anyone spreading ‘false information’ about its Ukraine invasion with up to 15 years in prison. Although focused on containing discontent through controlling the official narrative, and thus gaging the independent media, the law also applies to the use of social media.
As a result of the new law, travellers' Instagram and Facebook accounts have been inspected as well as Whatsapp and Telegram conversations.
As a general rule, caution should be exercised at all times, however, in the present circumstances extreme caution must be the watchword and any temptation to post comments or share any form of information resisted.
Despite suggestions to the contrary, as the first hand accounts that we have received testify, it is not only British and American citizens who are at the greatest risk of harassment on the part of Russian officials.
It should be noted that on 7 March, the Russian Government approved a list of ‘hostile countries’ - Italy has been included in the list.
In addition to the inspection of mobile devices, foreign citizens have been subject to lengthy delays at border crossings while documents and visas have been controlled in detail.
Air travel has been severely disrupted, the sanctions imposed on Russia have caused widespread cancellations which have led to a number of difficulties in leaving the country.
Land routes have witnessed severe delays and complications. Booking rail travel involves queuing at railway stations where, in addition to having to pay in cash, according to anecdotal evidence foreign citizens have been subject to refusals. In addition, there are reports of non-Russian citizens being removed from trains.
All travellers must be aware of the risk of being accused of espionage, an accusation that entails their immediate arrest or, at the very least, a lengthy period of detention.
The risk should not be underestimated and as such implies caution in regards to information in the traveller’s possession.
Travel will continue to be problematic, delays and lengthy controls are the new normal. Travellers should remain calm and cooperate with border authorities at all times. It is imperative that no excuse for suspicion is offered.
We are fully operational in Russia. Our evacuation support covers the organisation of outbound travel and, importantly, the considerations necessary to closing and securing office and residential properties. Contact us for further details on how we can support your staff and operations in Russia: https://www.pyramidtemigroup.com/en/contact-us/