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Libya 2013 Crime and Safety Report

Near East > Libya > Tripoli

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Libya witnessed a popular uprising against the regime of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi that lasted from February to October 2011 and included fighting throughout the country. The General National Congress (elected in July 2012) and an interim government (approved by the Congress in November) are dealing with many formidable post-war challenges. Many basic state institutions, including emergency services and tourist facilities, are not fully operational. 

Crime Threats

Authorities do not maintain comprehensive crime statistics for individual neighborhoods in Tripoli, so it is difficult to obtain an accurate assessment of the general crime level.While official statistics are often inaccurate and difficult to assess, crime levels in Tripoli have significantly increased. Easy access to weapons, primarily looted from pre-revolutionary government stockpiles, contributes to crime rates, and local militias and criminals exploit the absence of effective security structures. Sexual harassment of women, property crime, and petty street crime are the most common problems faced by Westerners. Several other factors make getting along in Libya more difficult than in other North Africa countries: language laws and poor infrastructure keep English signage to a minimum; there is no street address system; very few Libyans speak English; medical care may be limited and inadequate; the economy is cash-based and ATMs are rare; and women who adhere to Western dress codes may experience harassment unless they opt for more conservative dress.

Residential burglary and theft are the most common crimse reported by expatriates. Burglaries occur during the day or night. Rising burglary rates have caused many foreign individuals and companies to invest in residential security measures such as metal grillwork, alarm systems, and anti-climb devices. Burglars often carry edged weapons, both as tools for entry and as a deterrent against uncooperative victims. An increasing number of criminal assailants use weapons, including firearms.

The majority of the 16,000 criminals released during the revolution remain free. Carjacking, robberies, burglaries, and thefts continue. Unlike in Benghazi, acts of terrorism, targeted assassination campaigns, and violence specifically against Westerners have not been characteristic of the Tripoli landscape.  

Libyans are generally friendly toward foreigners and curious about Westerners following decades of isolation. However, Libya also has a large population of migrant workers from neighboring states and sub-Saharan Africa. Many Libyans believe that these migrants are responsible for increased crime.

Celebratory gunfire is a safety risk to travelers. Hundreds of injuries and a number of fatalities have resulted from rounds falling from the sky. While the government has made efforts, including public education campaigns, to reduce celebratory gunfire, it continues to be a significant public safety issue. 

Overall Road Safety Situation

Traffic accidents constitute the most common safety threat for visitors. In addition to traffic accidents, reports of armed highway robberies in both urban and rural areas have increased. Police do not routinely enforce traffic laws, and drivers are often reckless and inattentive. Many rural roads are unpaved and lack sufficient lighting for nighttime driving. Major urban highways merge into single-lane roadways outside of city limits and are more dangerous at night and in bad weather. Motor vehicles share the roads with horse-drawn trailers, farm vehicles, and other slow-moving traffic. Traffic signals and checkpoints appear frequently, and traffic often stops abruptly. It is not uncommon for drivers to drive through red lights or swerve across multiple lanes of traffic in order to make turns. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of accidental death. Traffic accidents often attract large crowds of onlookers who can become violent or angry. Individuals involved in traffic accidents who fear for their safety are advised to seek the nearest police officer or, if none are present, to leave the scene and travel directly to a safe location. Beggars are common at some intersections and approach stopped vehicles to solicit donations.

If driving is necessary, drive extremely defensively. Ensure sufficient braking distance and beware of pedestrians, who may step out in front of oncoming traffic. Pedestrians may "challenge" traffic by stepping out into busy streets without warning. Traffic law stipulates mandatory detention for any driver who hits a pedestrian; this was perhaps the only traffic law that was routinely enforced under the Qadhafi regime.  

Carjacking remains a concern. A favorite tactic of carjackers is to stop vehicles and victims under the guise of a militia or security checkpoint. The victims are then separated from their vehicles, often at gunpoint. Several foreigners and international companies in Tripoli have reported such carjackings. Even ‘legitimate’ checkpoints are not centrally controlled by the Ministry of Interior, adding to the overall confused security environment and reinforcing the effectiveness of this criminal tactic.

Short-term visitors are discouraged from driving themselves and advised to use a reputable car service instead. Many vehicle services are available in Tripoli and in some major cities. 

Visitors and residents should always wear seatbelts and are strongly encouraged to bring an approved car seat for infants and young children. Drivers do not generally use seatbelts or infant/child seats. All visitors are advised to keep windows and doors locked at all times. Individuals who travel outside major cities are advised to limit their travel to daylight hours and travel in convoys, if possible. 

Roadside assistance is extremely limited. 

The Ministry of Interior recently affirmed a Qadhafi-era motor vehicle law prohibiting tinted windows in vehicles. Law enforcement officials have been advised to enforce the ban strictly. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Libya is in transition. A Constitutional Declaration finalized on August 3, 2011, established the legal procedures for electing a General National Congress and is intended to remain in effect until, under the Constitutional Declaration, the General National Congress oversees the drafting of a constitution, which will be voted on through a referendum. That provision of the Declaration was modified by the Transitional National Council (TNC) just before the July 2012 national elections; the TNC stipulated that the members of the constitution drafting commission would be elected, rather than appointed by the GNC. The GNC in February 2013 re-endorsed this provision, setting the stage for another round of elections later in 2013. The Constitution will pave the way for a long-term democratically-elected government.  

Libya is in a post-conflict transition period, and business procedures and laws may no longer be valid or uniformly enforced. Regional differences and uncoordinated authorities often result in confusion and fluctuation in the interpretation, application, and enforcement of both criminal and civil laws.  

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Libya was removed from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2006. However, extremists groups and persons affiliated with extremist groups participated in the revolution against the Qadhafi regime. Violent extremist groups have taken advantage of the ongoing political turmoil in Libya and the region. Individuals and groups, including al-Qai’da in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), are emboldened to continue engaging in fund-raising, recruitment, and the procurement of arms. They use Libya as a platform from which to conduct attacks within Libya and throughout the region. 

Civil Unrest 

Violent clashes between armed groups are possible, particularly at night. Clashes often include the use of heavy weapons. Public demonstrations occur frequently in the central squares of cities, such as Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli and Freedom Square in Benghazi. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Natural disasters are not a major problem, although there are occasional floods in winter. The Tripoli coastline is situated above an inactive fault line, and most buildings are not designed to Western building codes or specifications.

Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones

U.S. Embassy Tripoli receives numerous reports of widespread smuggling, particularly involving weapons, and clashes between militias and alleged former regime supporters along Libya’s borders. Unexploded ordinance (UXO) and explosive remnants of war (ERW) remain a significant concern in urban and rural areas, particularly in areas such as Sirte, Bani Walid, and Misrata, that saw heavy fighting. The Qadhafi regime deployed anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines during the revolution; their whereabouts were not well recorded by former regime forces.

Although demining operations and efforts to remove UXO and ERW continue, a significant amount of unmarked landmines, UXO, and ERW remain. The risk of encountering unexploded ordinance and indiscriminately laid landmines is high in all areas where fighting occurred. Travelers are advised to exercise caution in these areas.

The border areas along the Tunisian/Libyan border are subject to frequent and unannounced closures.  

Police Response

Nascent police and military forces are working to develop capacity but are not yet able to mitigate serious security challenges. The government is working toward a comprehensive plan to integrate the various militia organizations into the police, armed forces, or civilian jobs. However, progress remains slow as the government tackles a wide range of policy issues in addition to demobilizing former militia fighters. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior estimates that only 60 percent of pre-revolutionary police forces have returned to their posts.  

Police, fire, and ambulance services operate in and around major cities, although they are poorly equipped and have slow response times.

Police 1515

Medical Emergencies
 
Public and private medical care may not meet Western standards and, in some cases, may be poor or nonexistent  Many physicians have been trained in the United States or Europe, but modern medical equipment and medicine are not always available. Nursing care, diagnostic equipment, and laboratory facilities are especially lacking. Most Libyans seek non-routine medical care outside of Libya.

Doctors and hospitals expect cash payment upon rendering services. While some over-the-counter medications are available, travelers should bring a full supply of necessary medications with them. 

Nationwide Emergency Numbers
Supreme Security Committee: 1515
Fire: 1515 Tripoli (021 444 8111)
Ambulance: 1515
 
Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics 
 
The medical professionals listed below can be contacted for emergency prescriptions. A list of healthcare providers is available at: http://libya.usembassy.gov/medical_information.html.

The U.S. Embassy cannot recommend specific medical facilities and assumes no responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms whose names appear on the list. The order in which the names appear has no significance. The following list of local doctors and dentists in Tripoli has been made on the basis of positive experiences in the expatriate community. It is provided for convenience only and constitutes neither an endorsement nor a recommendation by the U.S. Embassy:

Al Afia Hospital
Tel: +218-21-563-3051/52/53/54
Tel: +218-21-563-3900/01/02/03/04
Fax: +218-21-563-3055
Email:   info@alafiaclinic.com

Libya British Diagnostic Center
Jraba Street
Ben Ashour Area
Tripoli, Libya
Tel: +218-91-320-5816
Fax: +218-21-361-9692

Medlink International
Tripoli Clinic
Shara Hasi Messaoud
Suq El Gbub, Ghirgharesh
Tripoli, Libya
Tel: +218-483-0501
Fax: +218-483-0491
Email: clinic@medilinkint.com

Brothers Clinic
Nufleen Area, 1st right after Bengaber Mosque/near ICRC
Tripoli, Libya
Tel: +218-91-218-2411
Fax: +218-021-340-1671
Web: http://www.brothersclinic.com/ 

Saint James Hospital 
Wesayat El Beideri
Ben Ashour Area
Tripoli, Libya
Tel: +218-21-719-0843
Email: pierre@stjhlibya.com   www.stjhlibya.com

Tripoli Medical Center  
Address:  Fernaj beside Al-Fateh University Tripoli/El Farang Area
Dr. Tareg +218-91-353-2259
Dr. Bezante +218-91-491-8781
Tel: +218-21-462-3701 to 3714
Cel: +218-91-211-4966
Tel: +218-21 46307-4

Al Khadra Hospital
Address:  Al-Hadba Alkhadra Tripoli / Hay Damascus Area
Tel:   +218-21-490-0754
Fax: +218-21-490-6030

Abuslim Trauma Hospital
Address:  Second Ring Rd/ Abuslim Area Management Office
Tel: +218-21-490-1951 (Administration)
Tel: +218-21-490-0606 Ext 253 (Emergency)

Burn Center
Address:  Sedi Khalifa Area, next to Tripoli Central Hospital
Tel: +218-21-360-5541/43/44
Tel: +218-21-360-4637/38

Refaq Medical Services 
Seyahey- Hay Al-Wahda Al-Araia
Tripoli, Libya
Tel: +218-21-484-2989
Email: info@refaqh.com

Alsalaam Medical Center
Janzour Circular Road 
Tripoli, Libya
Tel: +218-91-320-5816
Cel: +218-21-489-8025/6
Fax: +218-21-489-1490 
E-mail: info@amc.ly  e.greba@amc.ly 

Dentists
Dr. Kamel Alhattab: +218-91-372-2390 
Dr. Bashir K Hush: +218-91-371-9814
Dr. Aml Hwas (Pedodontics): +218-91-211-7651
Dr. Mokhtar Nagasa (prosthodontist): +218-91-422-4279

Eye Clinic
Dr. Abdulmuhaymen Hamouda: +218-91-3154024, +218-21-3332955   

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/libya.htm).  

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Areas to be Avoided 

Because of ongoing instability and violence, the Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Libya and strongly advises against all but essential travel to Tripoli and all travel to Benghazi, Bani Walid, and southern Libya, including border areas and the regions of Sabha and Kufra. The Department’s ability to provide consular services to U.S. citizens is extremely limited.

Best Security Practices

U.S. citizens should maintain a high level of awareness, keep a low and inconspicuous profile, vary travel times and routes, and avoid crowds, demonstrations, and other events that have the potential to develop into violence. Travelers should exercise common sense and good personal security practices, including awareness of surroundings, keeping an inconspicuous appearance, and avoiding unsolicited offers of assistance. Business travelers and residents should avoid routines: traveling to and from work at the same time by the same route every day or consistently meeting with people at the same public and commercial establishments. In general, one should approach Libyan cities with the same security posture as one would approach major U.S. cities. In the event of celebratory gunfire, stay indoors.

Travelers should refrain from taking photographs of military and police installations and personnel, industrial facilities, government buildings, and critical infrastructure (dams, roads, airports, bridges, etc). Such sites often lack clear markings. Individual Libyans may object to having their picture taken. Travel guides, police, and other government officials can advise if a particular site may be photographed. Photographing prohibited sites may result in the confiscation of camera and media and could lead to being detained by police.

Commercial activities are primarily cash-only for most transactions. Some ATMs are available in major hotels, shopping centers, and restaurants. Much of the banking and commercial infrastructure is recovering from UN sanctions. Travelers should consult their credit card company prior to travel to ensure that transactions in Libya are allowed.  

The issue of private security firms is sensitive for the government given Qadhafi’s use of foreign mercenaries during the revolution. Historically, only three security firms existed, two of which were associated with the prior regime. A third company, Atlas Security, remains in business and provides unarmed security at a few sites in Tripoli. Other private security firms claim to have obtained “no objection certificates” that permits them to operate from the Transitional National Council, the predecessor to the General National Congress, including: AKE, Atlas Security, Blue Mountain Group, Control Risks Group, Gallice Security, Garda World, andOlive Group. There are no known private security or legal firms offering private investigative services. The U.S. Embassy suggests that OSAC constituents contact the Regional Security Office for further information, as this information may change quickly given the local legal and political situation in Libya.

Tripoli has a handful of safe, moderately-priced hotels, and a growing number of Western chain hotels although most hotels are owned at least in part by the government. When staying in a hotel, be sure to report suspicious activity immediately to the front desk, always use the door viewer and deadbolt lock, know all fire escape routes, and refrain from bringing strangers into your room.

U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information 
 
Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation 

U.S. Embassy Tripoli 
Sidi Slim Area/Off Walie Al-Ahed Road
Airport Road District
The workday in Libya is Sunday through Thursday.  

Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers

Telephone: +218 (0)91 220 3203
(When calling from outside Libya, dial +218 and omit the "(0)." When calling from within Libya, dial "0" followed by the number.)
Regional Security Office: +218 (0)91-220-3094 (OSAC inquires), DSRSOTRIPOLI@state.gov
American Citizen Services: +218 (0)91-379 4560, consulartripoli@state.gov
URL: http://libya.usembassy.gov/

Companies should ensure all U.S. citizen staff register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP - https://step.state.gov/step/) and consult the latest Travel Warning and Security Messages (http://libya.usembassy.gov/service/information-for-travelers/warden-messages.html). 

American Citizen Services at U.S. Embassy Tripoli are provided, but the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens outside of Tripoli remains extremely limited. The phone number for U.S. citizen emergency services is 091-220-5203 (218-91-220-5203 if dialing from outside Libya). This phone is monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  

For further information, U.S. citizens should consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Libya (http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_951.html) and are encouraged to stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website (http://travel.state.gov/), which contains the current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution. The public can follow us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/#%21/TravelGov) and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/travelgov) as well. Our free Smart Traveler App, available through iTunes and the Android market, is also available for downloading. 

Passports and visas are required for all U.S. citizens. Libyan embassies abroad operate differently; travelers are encouraged to reach out to the Libyan embassy in the country in which they reside to obtain the latest information on visa procedures. Libyan immigration officials sometimes require endorsement letters from the Libyan government. The government does not allow persons with passports bearing an Israeli visa or entry/exit stamps from Israel to enter Libya. 

Libyan citizens and third country nationals requiring assistance in obtaining immigrant or non-immigrant visas to the United States should apply at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate outside of Libya.  

OSAC Country Council Information
 
OSAC has an active Country Council program in Tripoli that meets regularly and discusses a range of issues that are of interest to the U.S. private sector. The Tripoli Country Council is open to all U.S. private sector constituents. For additional information on the Tripoli Country Council, please visit the Tripoli page via http://www.osac.gov. For information on how to join or become involved in the Country Council, please contact that Regional Security Office in Tripoli or OSAC headquarters.