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Overseas Security Advisory Council
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Fiji 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Suva. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Fiji. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Fiji-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.

Travel Advisory

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

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Suva as being a LOW-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Crime is a continuing problem in Fiji, and can have a major impact on the work and life of the community. The majority of crime occurs in more densely populated urban areas. Although tourists and U.S. citizens do not appear to be disproportionate victims of criminal activity, foreigners tend to attract more attention than local residents do. Criminals perceive them to carry more money, and may target them for armed/unarmed robbery and assault for that reason. These crimes occur with some frequency, primarily in certain areas of downtown Suva, in/around tourist hotels with less security, and in remote regions of the country.

The most common types of crime are property crimes (e.g. robbery, burglary, petty theft). Street robberies and pickpocketing incidents, especially those targeting visitors in western towns popular with tourists, occur both day and night. Criminals typically work in pairs, but also operate in larger groups. These groups lack an organizational hierarchy or long-term vision, and generally operate on an ad hoc basis. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.

Most assaults and robberies occur at night around popular restaurants and nightclubs. Often, the perpetrators and/or victims are intoxicated. Areas located near impoverished settlements, including some resorts, have a higher rate of burglary. Such settlements are ubiquitous and difficult to avoid.

Most burglars prefer to avoid direct violence or confrontation. Because firearms are very limited and offenses involving firearms carry stiff penalties, criminals are more likely to use other weapons (e.g. cane knives, similar to machetes; other sharp objects; or blunt instruments) in the commission of crime. It is common to see people carrying cane knives outside of the city, as they are a routinely used agricultural tool. Many burglars do not hesitate to enter an occupied residence or business and brandish weapons. In such cases, the burglaries appear planned and may involve groups of 2-10 people. Criminal elements have bent and broken through security bars and, on occasion, solid wood doors. Some criminals also target cash-reliant businesses for robbery due to careless cash-handling procedures. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security.

Violent crimes (e.g. assault, armed robbery) are generally less common than in many cities in the U.S. Sexual assaults are also a concern, particularly for women traveling alone at night; they occur more frequently than one would expect given Fiji’s reputation as an island paradise. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

Hotel beaches are public by law, but hotel guests are generally the only users; beaches are generally safe. Avoid publicly accessible beaches after dark – particularly those that experience less traffic.

There are elements of Asian organized crime involved in illegal gambling, prostitution, cybercrime, and narcotics distribution in Fiji. These elements are unlikely to affect U.S. citizens or private-sector organizations uninvolved in the illegal activities associated with these groups. In recent years, Australian outlaw motorcycle gangs have attempted to establish a presence in Fiji, but they do not appear to have caused any significant crime-related issues. 

Fiji continues to face issues associated with ATM/credit card scams. In 2016, Fijian law enforcement identified skimming devices and related equipment commonly used in ATM and credit card-related fraud. Most of the skimmers are easily identifiable, but many victims still fail to recognize the devices. Some banks have added increased security measures to ATMs – including anti-tampering measures and PIN concealment covers – but small, regional banks continue to be targets due to the absence of such security features. In late 2017, authorities arrested three Bulgarian nationals for possession of a skimming device with intention to obtain personal financial information dishonestly. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.

Cybersecurity Issues

Email and social media fraud schemes, which range from romance schemes to variations of Nigerian / 419 / advance-fee fraud scams, also appear to be increasing. In August 2017, police arrested 77 Chinese nationals on suspicion of fraud, later deporting them. The suspects reportedly defrauded close to US$900,000 as part of an online fraud syndicate operating from China, Indonesia, and Fiji. The group appears not to have targeted U.S interests, focusing instead on Chinese citizens living in Fiji.

Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Drive defensively and cautiously. Road conditions in urban areas are generally fair, with the exception of large potholes that appear following heavy rainstorms. Road infrastructure in rural areas can be poor and potentially dangerous. Poor road conditions, unfenced livestock, stray pets, unwary pedestrians, and large potholes present safety hazards, particularly after dark. There continue to be reports of fatal vehicle accidents involving collisions with roaming livestock that stray into the middle of highways.

Street thieves commonly walk a line of parked cars attempting to find one that is unlocked. Lock doors, roll up windows, and leave nothing of value in sight.

Due to increased number of police vehicles, traffic law enforcement is more frequent, but is still minimal at best. The Fijian government has installed traffic cameras along main highways and at stoplights. The locations of the cameras, which public, have served to reduce speeding in and around the camera locations. Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

Public Transportation Conditions

Due to frequent and sometimes violent crime targeting taxi drivers, do not allow taxis to pick up other passengers while they are in the vehicle, and do not enter a taxi that already has passengers. Many taxis lack seatbelts and are in poor condition. When using a taxi, use a reputable taxi service with well-maintained vehicles.

Some minibus, bus, and taxi drivers drive recklessly and do not always adhere to traffic laws. There have also been reports of drivers operating public vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or kava. Many buses are older models; there have been multiple reports of public buses catching on fire. These large, yellow public buses frequently fail to merge properly with the flow of traffic.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The airports are relatively free of crime, but there have been reports of items stolen from checked baggage. This trend has continued to decline, but passengers should maintain awareness of their belongings at all times, use Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved locks, and retrieve their checked bags as soon as possible. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Suva 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 Suva as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Fiji is still emerging from the legacy of its coup-era government policies, and has taken notable steps in returning to democracy. The government has made efforts to court international investors, and has prioritized social stability, human rights, and climate change. Fiji held democratic elections in 2014 and 2018, the first since a 2006 coup. The international community deemed both elections credible.

Civil Unrest 

Although protests are not common, avoid demonstrations and large crowds, as even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent unexpectedly. While daily life appears calm on the surface, Fiji’s history suggests that civil unrest could erupt without advance notice. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest

In October 2017, the Fiji Trade Union staged a peaceful protest with more than 400 participants marching through downtown Suva. The government granted approval and issued a rare permit for the protest to take place.

The Fijian government pursued charges against the Fiji Times newspaper for publishing a letter to the editor that the government alleged was likely to incite dislike, hatred, or antagonism toward the Muslim minority, which is a violation of the Crimes Decree. These events received significant attention on traditional and social media, but did not lead to any public protests or demonstrations.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Several of Fiji’s major political parties operate along ethnic lines. In times of political turmoil surrounding earlier coups, ethnic violence involving indigenous nationalist perpetrators has targeted the Indo-Fijian population. The current government has prioritized the elimination of race-based politics and called for a multi-cultural, inclusive Fijian national identity. Despite some improvements, tensions still exist in some areas between the iTaukei and Indo-Fijian communities, and to a lesser extent people of Chinese descent. The military remains more than 90% ethnic-iTaukei, though the police force is much more ethnically diverse.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Fiji is subject to many natural disasters, including cyclones, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and landslides. Although the probability of a major earthquake or tsunami occurring during a particular trip is remote, small-scale earthquakes are common.

The cyclone (hurricane) season typically runs November-April. Cyclone activity frequently causes flooding in the coastal or low-lying areas, often cutting off access to resorts, roads, and villages. Public services (e.g. water, electricity, transportation) are unlikely to be available for a significant period following a powerful cyclone.

In 2016, Tropical Cyclone Winston became the strongest recorded tropical cyclone to make landfall in Fiji and the South Pacific Basin. The Category 5 cyclone inflicted extensive damage on many islands, killing 44 people, destroying 40,000 homes, and costing upward of US$1.4 billion in damages.

In 2014, a landslide interrupted Suva’s water supply, causing a significant water shortage in the capital for several days.

Critical Infrastructure

Industrial accidents occasionally occur, usually in the form of fires at warehouses or commercial facilities. Often, these structures do not have fire alarms installed or fire suppression equipment in close proximity. Most tourist hotels in the tourist centers have up-to-date fire alarms and proper evacuation plans in place. Review OSAC’s report, Fire Safety Abroad

Economic Concerns

Fiji has improved the enforcement of intellectual property rights and committed to compliance with international law. As a result, the frequency of pirated items has declined. Nevertheless, some stores still openly sell pirated copies of movies, television shows, and music, and counterfeit clothing, jewelry, and other luxury goods.

International investors must conduct sufficient due diligence to assess judicial transparency, government accountability, and avenues for recourse under the law.

Personal Identity Concerns

There continue to be concerns related to gender, sexual orientation, and race. Fiji’s ethnic groups include indigenous Fijians (also called iTaukei, who constitute roughly 57% of the population), Indo-Fijians (37%), and several smaller groups of European, Asian, and other Pacific Islander descent. At times, Fiji experiences tension between ethnic groups.

Fijians are generally polite to women, but there continues to be a problem with sexual assault cases and physical abuse. The majority of the physical abuse relates to families, as gender-based domestic violence is prevalent in Fiji. Instances of sexual assault most often involve a guardian or family member. Other instances of sexual assault often involve victims who are intoxicated and/or in an isolated areas. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

LGBTI+ orientation is generally accepted, but the local populace may not always use politically correct terms. There have not been any reports of violence related to sexual orientation. Review the State

Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

Drug-related Crimes

Drug addiction does contribute to some of the petty crime that occurs in Fiji. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs (including marijuana), are severe. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.

There has been a recent uptick in the local sale and use of methamphetamine, which previously only transited through Fiji on the way to Australia or New Zealand. This past year, there has been spike in methamphetamine related arrests.

Kidnapping Threat

There are limited cases of kidnapping in Fiji. Most instances are family-related. In 2016, criminals kidnapped a French national employee of the French Embassy in overnight hours, but released the victim after the vehicle crashed and police responded. There was no indication that the criminal targeted the victim because she was a Western diplomat. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics

Other Issues

The law theoretically guarantees freedom of expression, but restrictions exist in practice. The government enforces the Media Industry Development Decree, which allows for fines when the government deems journalists are reporting on issues against the poorly defined “public interest.” The government has prosecuted media outlets and civil society organizations for republishing or quoting material that allegedly questioned the independence of Fiji’s judiciary. Individuals, media outlets, and civil society organizations practice varying degrees of self-censorship in order to avoid undue government attention and possible repercussions.

Travelers visiting local Fijian villages must check with local authorities for permission before making arrangements. All visitors should become familiar with local customs prior to any visits.

Police Response

The emergency line in Fiji is 911; for fire emergencies, dial 917. For administrative calls to the local fire and police posts, dial: Korolevu  (Fire: 650-0516, Police: 653-0122); Labasa (Fire: 881-1333, Police: 881-1222); Lautoka (Fire: 666-0211, Police: 666-0222); Nadi (Fire: 670-0475, Police: 670-0222); Suva (Fire: 331-2877, Police: 331-1222). The Fiji Police Force is a professional, albeit under-resourced, law enforcement organization. Recently, there has been an improvement in training, accountability, and regional cooperation. Police generally do not have vehicles to respond to calls, and are unlikely to arrive in time to disrupt a crime in progress.

Fijian law permits police officers to search any person, building, vehicle, cargo, or baggage if there are reasonable grounds to believe in a connection to any offense against public order or the crime decree. Obscene material (pornography) is illegal, and the law only loosely defines what constitutes obscene materials.

Carry a copy of your passport on your person; police often ask for identification of all parties involved in any type of incident.

Local laws allow police to detain someone for up to 48 hours for administrative processing without charge, and for an additional 14 days upon approval by the Police Commissioner. In the case of a military detention, there is no guarantee that the Embassy would be able to visit the detained citizen. There are no set legal rules on military detention. Victims of crime can expect fair treatment with dignity. The relative inefficiency and overly bureaucratic judicial process may frustrate victims. Download the State Department’s Crime Victim Assistance brochure.

Medical Emergencies

The medical emergency line in Fiji is 910. Health care facilities in Fiji's urban areas are adequate for most routine medical problems. Although a private hospital in Suva provides Western-style medical treatment, the standards of care are below those in the United State. In rural areas, staff training is limited, and there are often shortages of supplies and medications. 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. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.

Emergency response is extremely limited. Ambulance availability is minimal, and ambulances are often poorly equipped and not staffed with medical personnel. Rural areas have extremely limited ambulance services. For a list of available medical facilities, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

A recompression chamber at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva can treat decompression sickness; however, the chamber is not always fully functional.

Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services. Those with medical emergencies may require evacuation (medevac) to Australia, New Zealand, or the United States. Medevac costs thousands of dollars, and is available only to patients with adequate insurance or upfront payment. In some cases, a medical evacuation to Australia or New Zealand can require a medical visa. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Departments webpage on insurance overseas.

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

OSAC Country Council Information

Fiji is in the process of launching an OSAC Country Council. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Asia Pacific team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

158 Princes Road, Tamavua, Suva

Switchboard: +679 331-4466

Emergencies: +679 772-8049

Website: http://fj.usembassy.gov

The Consular Section does not provide a walk-in information service to the public. The section is open from 0900-1200 and 1400-1600 Monday-Thursday, and 0900-1200 Friday to appointment holders and persons requesting American Citizen Services.

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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