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French Guiana 2019 Crime & Safety Report

French Guiana 2019 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France, which has responsibility for French Guiana.

 

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses French Guiana at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo, Suriname, which has consular responsibility for French Guiana, does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizen Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of services provided.

Review OSAC’s French Guiana-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

There is moderate risk from crime in Cayenne. French Guiana is an overseas department of France, but does not have the same level of law enforcement infrastructure as mainland France. Petty street crime occurs throughout the major cities. Crime levels remains low, but serious crime does occur.

Violent crime in French Guiana has been increasing in recent years due to dissatisfaction with the high poverty and unemployment rates, and economic inequality compared to mainland France, which culminated with riots in 2017. Most of the territory in French Guiana consists of the Amazon forest in the southwest region of the country, with most of the population living in the coastal cities. However, not all crime occurs in the cities. Criminal issues involving illegal migration and trafficking occur along the border with Brazil. Criminals have used small arms in the commission of violent crimes around small-scale/illegal mining operations in the interior.

Other Areas of Concern

Motorcycle theft occurs frequently along smaller roads in French Guiana. Thieves are also active along the beaches, particularly after dark and may target tourists due to a perception that they may have more wealth.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Road Safety and Road Conditions

French Guiana has fewer than 500 total miles of paved roads. Roads are in generally fair condition, especially the main N1 highway that connects the major urban centers. Roads become increasingly difficult to drive as you go south. Emergency call boxes are available at regular intervals on the main highways. Lane markings and sign placements are not always clear. Remote roads are prone to flooding, especially during the rainy season. Sidewalks are not common; animals and people often frequent the same road and make driving hazardous at night.

You need a valid driver’s license and an International Driving Permit in order to drive in French Guiana. Follow generally accepted driving rules regarding seatbelts, mobile phone use, etc. Be aware that traffic policing may be limited, so be vigilant for other drivers’ behavior.

French Guiana has strict laws regarding driving under the influence and authorities consider 0.05% blood alcohol concentration to be the limit. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol could land you immediately in jail.

For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s Report, Driving Overseas: Best Practices.

Public Transportation Conditions

Car rental services are available in most major cities in French Guiana. Taxis are available in Cayenne, most of which have meters.

A public bus service operates in the urban centers, although service is sporadic and remains unreliable.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of France’s Civil Aviation Authority as compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of France’s air carrier operations. Find further information on the FAA safety assessment page.

There are four airports with paved runways in French Guiana. Cayenne’s Félix Eboué Airport (CAY) is the primary point of entry into French Guiana. There have been no reports of items stolen from checked baggage. Maintain awareness of belongings at all times, use Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved locks, and retrieve checked bags as soon as possible.

Terrorism Threat

There is minimal risk from terrorism in Cayenne.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest 

There is minimal risk from civil unrest in Cayenne. Demonstrations and strikes affecting transportation, including airports and roads, may occur. Reconfirm any domestic and/or international flight reservations if you are traveling during one of these events.

Widespread social unrest in 2017 led by the “Collective of 500 Brothers” highlighted the high levels of economic inequality and poor infrastructure of French Guiana compared to other French overseas departments and mainland France. These protests included roadblocks of connections to neighboring countries and violence in Cayenne and Kourou, and resulted in a shortage of fresh food in many markets and a temporary cessation of aviation. The protests lasted a month, ending after France agreed to an emergency financial relief package.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

 

French Guiana has historically been host to many refugees from Suriname, Haiti, and Brazil, as well as Hmong peoples from mainland France. Many of the Surinamese who live in French Guiana are of the same ethnic groups and religions as the local population. There have been no recent reports of violence between refugees and the local population.

Civil servants in French Guiana are predominantly white, despite only one in seven French Guianese having European ancestry; this discrepancy has caused increased tension in recent years, and was particularly evident during the 2017 riots.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

French Guiana is a tropical country; severe rainstorms can occur during the rainy season between December and July, with a peak of rain in May. Hurricanes rarely hit French Guiana directly, but the rainy season between December and June, with a peak in May, brings torrential rains and flooding.

Jungle expeditions in French Guiana are dangerous due to their remote locations. If you plan to travel into the interior, use a well-established tour company.

Critical Infrastructure

Fire alarms and fire suppression systems are not common in French Guiana. For more information on fire safety in hotels, review OSAC’s Report, Fire Safety Abroad.

Telecommunications and the electric grid are each the responsibility of a French parastatal agency. A French-owned gravity dam providing hydroelectric power along the Sinnamary River in the north is currently the only major power generation facility. A project in Mana is looking to add capacity for 10,000 households with a large new renewable energy facility, slated to come online in 2020.

Personal Identity Concerns

There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBT events in French Guiana.

In French Guiana’s main cities, there are access ramps and parking spaces, but no accommodations for the blind. Outside the main cities, there are no facilities or infrastructure to support accessibility for the disabled.

Drug-related Crimes

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime notes that French Guiana is a transit zone for cocaine, primarily on the way to Europe. There have been increased reports of drug trafficking in recent years.

French Guiana authorities enforce drug possession laws strictly. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in French Guiana are severe; convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.

Kidnapping Threat

There is minimal risk from kidnapping in Cayenne.

Police Response

The ability of local police to assist victims of crime is limited due to lack of response vehicles, radios, and other essential equipment. Officers are not likely speak English.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Report incidents of police detention or harassment to the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible. If arrested/detained, ensure the police understand that you are a U.S. citizen, and ask them to contact the U.S. Embassy in Suriname at +597-556-700 (during working hours) or the U.S. Embassy Duty Officer +597-710-1112 after hours.

Crime Victim Assistance

Report all incidents of crime or emergency to the local authorities by calling 112. Remain calm and polite when interacting with the police to avoid misunderstandings. Operators are not likely to speak English.

Police/Security Agencies

 

As a French overseas department, French Guiana’s policing structure mimics that of France.

 

The police are the main law enforcement agency in the capital. Officers wear dark blue uniforms with a bright blue stripe across the back, and dark blue caps. Vehicles are white with a blue stripe and clear markings of “Police Municipale.”

 

The gendarmerie is the main law enforcement agency outside of the capital. Gendarmes wear dark blue uniform pants and light blue uniform shirts. Vehicles are blue with a white stripe and clear markings of “Gendarmerie.” The Gendarmerie is also responsible for the protection of Kourou Space Center and guarding against illegal immigration. Operation Harpie leads the force against the illegal exploitation of gold resources, a major issue in the interior.

 

Medical Emergencies

Healthcare is limited in French Guiana due to understaffing and a lack of technical facilities. Centre Hospitalier Andrée-Rosemon in Cayenne (+594-39-50-50) is the only full-service hospital in French Guiana, and has the only intensive care and trauma unit. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services. You can find prescription and over-the-counter medicines in pharmacies in larger cities, but U.S. brands may not be available. Carry adequate supplies of any needed prescription medicines, along with copies of prescriptions, the generic name of the drugs, and a supply of preferred over-the-counter medications. For more information, refer to OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.

Call 112 or the Centre Hospitalier Andrée-Rosemon for ambulance service.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For a list of available medical facilities, refer to the U.S. Embassy in Suriname’s Medical Assistance webpage.

Insurance Guidance

A medical evacuation (medevac) can be very expensive. Strongly consider purchasing medevac insurance in advance of travel. Medevac services are available through Horizon Air and Medical Air Service.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The southern part of French Guiana is rampant with infectious and noninfectious diseases. There is an elevated risk of Zika virus, Dengue fever, Malaria, and Yellow fever.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for French Guiana.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is no OSAC Country Council in French Guiana. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

There is no U.S. Embassy in French Guiana. The nearest Embassy is in neighboring Suriname, at Kristalstraat 165, Paramaribo, Suriname; open Monday-Friday, 0730 to 1600.

Embassy Contact Numbers

U.S. Embassy Operator: +597 556-700

VOIP: 202-609-9890 or 202-609-9765

U.S. Embassy Duty Officer (emergencies only, after hours): +597 710-1112

Website: https://sr.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling to French Guiana should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.

Additional Resource: French Guiana Country Information Sheet

 

 

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