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Overseas Security Advisory Council
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Micronesia 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, which has security oversight for the Federated States of Micronesia. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Micronesia. Review OSAC’s Micronesia 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.

Travel Advisory

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Micronesia at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Kolonia as being a LOW-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Many Micronesians do not formally report crimes such as rape or domestic violence due to cultural stigmas.  Non-confrontational property crimes (home break-ins) are the type of crimes most likely to affect those residing in or traveling to Micronesia. In July 2019, several U.S. Navy Seabees were in a car when a man drove up near them and fired a rifle into the air. In addition, a U.S. Embassy spouse reported sexual harassment from a taxi driver and passersby.

Handguns are illegal throughout the Federated States of Micronesia, but local residents may wield guns as a form of intimidation outside of city limits.  Rifles are legal in Ponhpei and Kosrae with hunting permits.

In October 2019, someone shot and killed a U.S. citizen serving as the acting Attorney General with a shotgun in Yap.  

Traveling on foot after dark in Micronesia can be dangerous due to the lack of sidewalks, no streetlights, stray dogs, frequent torrential downpours, and drunk drivers.

Crime rates are significantly higher in Chuuk than in the other three states. Incidents in Chuuk have recently included assaults on U.S. citizens. Crime increases at night and alcohol usually plays a role, especially in assaults. Maintain situational awareness and avoid individuals who appear to be intoxicated. Do not attempt to intervene in disputes between local citizens.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Most roads in Micronesia are in very poor condition, with numerous potholes; they are narrow and without sidewalks. There are no traffic signals. Road traffic includes vehicles, pedestrians, playing children, and animals. Road conditions can worsen significantly after heavy rains, which occur frequently. There are very few streetlights, so road visibility is difficult at night. Pedestrians may dress in dark clothing, making them especially hard to see. Roads outside of towns are mostly unpaved. The lack of shoulders on the roads hampers travel by bicycle, as does the presence of many dogs. Drive defensively and be on the lookout for pedestrians, especially near Yap harbor and Chuuk Lagoon.

Drivers often do not have the benefit of formal training in road safety and/or driving skills, so many drivers are unaware of road safety rules. Drivers often make sudden turns or stop to chat with or pick up pedestrians without warning. When traffic accidents happen, they often result in fatalities or serious injuries. However, most motorcyclists wear helmets. Review OSAC’s Report, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

Public Transportation Conditions

There is no public transportation in Micronesia. Taxis are available in state capitals, but exercise caution when patronizing them, as many taxi drivers are reckless.  Some taxi drivers sell marijuana and are involved in prostitution/sex trafficking. Taxi drivers often require shared rides; many do not accept single fares. The U.S. Embassy advises its personnel not to use taxis. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Flights often fill up quickly and are expensive. United Airlines flies from Guam into Kolonia five times per week.  Inclement weather and other conditions often delay or cancel flights.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Kolonia as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Kolonia as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Micronesia faces an array of natural disasters including tsunamis, typhoons, floods, mudslides, and earthquakes. Typhoons are a common occurrence, and the peak season is August-November. Yap and Chuuk States experience more typhoons and tropical storms, but Pohnpei and Kosrae States are not immune, especially to torrential rainfall. A slight rise in sea level can flood many of the 600 islands and atolls that comprise the country. Monitor weather closely during typhoon season and depart the island you are visiting if a typhoon heads your way.    

Unexploded ordnance (UXO) from World War II remains in some areas. It is both dangerous and illegal to remove anything from sunken WWII vessels and aircraft.

Economic Concerns

Micronesia uses the U.S. dollar as its currency. Some businesses or hotels will not accept credit cards; many vendors prefer cash. Internet connectivity problems are common and can prevent credit card transactions even when businesses are willing to accept them.

Personal Identity Concerns

Same-sex sexual activity is legal and the law provides for protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation. While there are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBT events, Micronesian society remains very conservative, and the LGBT community is discrete. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

Accessibility and accommodation are vastly different from what you find in the United States. Neither laws nor regulations mandate accessibility to public facilities, services, or accommodations for persons with mobility issues. There are few sidewalks and no public transportation. The national Department of Health and Social Services is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities; however, they rarely take action to enforce these measures. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Drug-related Crimes

Alcohol abuse is common and can lead to crimes such as assault, domestic violence, and vandalism. Public drunkenness is a felony in Yap. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs, including marijuana, are severe; convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.

Police Response

The emergency line in MICRONESIA is 911 (except Pohnpei). Report crimes to the local police at 320-2221 on Pohnpei, and 911 on all other islands. The numbers for fire assistance are 330-2222 (Chuuk), 370-3333 (Kosrae), 320-2223 (Pohnpei), and 350-3333 (Yap). There is often a significant delay before police and firefighters respond to calls, and they may not be able to respond at all. Sometimes no one picks up at emergency numbers, especially after normal business hours. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

Report all incidents of crime to the local police authorities. It is important that foreigners remain calm and polite when interacting with the police to avoid misunderstandings. The ability of local police to respond to traffic accidents and to assist victims of crime is limited due to a lack of response vehicles, radios, and other essential equipment. Compared to norms in the United States, local police are less responsive to victim concerns, particularly in cases involving burglary. Local police may not possess the resources to prosecute crimes.

There is no coroner and police perform only limited investigations into crimes.  Authorities have limited ability to take or electronically compare fingerprints. 

Those arrested or detained should ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. The justice system is extremely slow and may not apply western legal standards. Some members of law enforcement are poorly trained. Court-appointed attorneys, as well as judges, may not have legal training comparable to that found in the United States.

Medical Emergencies

Only basic medical care is available, and only on the main outer islands. Overseas travel may exacerbate health problems and require a level of medical care unavailable in Micronesia. Bring a sufficient supply of any medications you require, as many medications are difficult, if not impossible, to acquire locally. For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Traveling with Medication.

Scuba divers should note that in Micronesia, the only operational decompression chambers with trained staff are in Chuuk and Yap States.

There are four state hospitals in Micronesia, in Kosrae, Pohnpei, Yap, and Chuuk. These facilities lack advanced supplies and medicines, and the quality of health care is low. For complete contact information for these hospitals, as well as smaller, private clinics and pharmacies, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Medical air evacuation assistance is available but is expensive.  It is best to have a provider’s contacts before traveling to Micronesia, as trying to find one once in country can mean that the assistance will take considerably longer to arrive. Because commercial flights often sell out, finding last-minute seats can be difficult.

Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation (medevac) to the U.S. can cost several thousand dollars. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Travelers should drink bottled water while in Micronesia. Review OSAC’s report, I’m Drinking What in My Water?

The State Department's Regional Medical Officer recommends that visitors to Micronesia ensure that their Tetanus/Diphtheria (TD), Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR), Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Polio vaccinations are up to date. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for FSM.

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

OSAC Country Council Information

There is no active OSAC Country Council in Micronesia. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s East Asia-Pacific Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy and Contact Information

1286 U.S. Embassy Place, Pohnpei (near the movie theater)

Hours: Mon-Fri, 0800-1700 (except local and U.S. holidays)

Website: https://fm.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Operator: (691) 320-2187

Emergency calls after normal business hours: (691) 920- 2369. 

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

OSAC Risk Matrix

OSAC Travelers Toolkit

State Department Traveler’s Checklist

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

 

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