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Fiji 2017 Crime & Safety Report

East Asia & Pacific > Fiji; East Asia & Pacific > Fiji > Suva; East Asia & Pacific > Kiribati; East Asia & Pacific > Nauru; East Asia & Pacific > Tonga; East Asia & Pacific > Tuvalu

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Suva does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED SUVA AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Fiji-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Fiji is striving to re-establish a leadership role in regional and global affairs, including on environmental issues and peacekeeping. Fiji is the South Pacific regional hub for economic, transportation, and educational services. Regional organizations including the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIF), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), and the University of the South Pacific have their largest presences in Fiji. The United Nations manages its Pacific programs out of their regional office in Suva, and since the 2014 elections, a number of donors have relocated to or expanded their presence in Suva. 

Fiji is still emerging from the legacy of its coup-era government policies. The Bainimarama government has made efforts to court international investors and has prioritized social stability, human rights, and climate change. International investors must conduct due diligence to assess judicial transparency, government accountability, and avenues for recourse under the law.

Crime Threats

Although tourists and U.S. citizens do not appear to be disproportionate victims of criminal activity, foreigners attract more attention than local citizens and are believed to carry more money. As a result, foreigners have been the target of armed/unarmed robberies and assaults, particularly in certain areas of downtown Suva, less guarded tourist hotels, and more remote regions of the country. Areas located near impoverished settlements, including some resorts, have a higher rate of burglaries; such settlements are ubiquitous and generally difficult to avoid.

Most crimes are property crimes (petty theft, robbery, burglary). Street robberies and pickpocket incidents, especially those targeting tourists, occur predominantly at night. Criminals usually work in pairs but have been known to operate in larger groups. Street thieves commonly walk a line of parked cars in an effort to locate an unlocked one. 

Violent crimes (assault, armed robbery) occur, though generally at a lower rate than in many large U.S. cities. Most assaults and robberies occur at night around popular restaurants and nightclubs. Often times the perpetrators/victims are intoxicated. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.”

There are extremely limited firearms in Fiji. Offenses using firearms carry stiff penalties, so other weapons (cane knives (similar to a machete), other sharp objects, blunt instruments) are used in the commission of crimes. It is common to see people carrying cane knives, as they are a routinely used agricultural tool.

Many burglars do not hesitate to enter an occupied residence/business and have brandished weapons (usually knives or machetes). In such cases, the burglaries appear to be planned and carried out by 2-10 people. Although multiple assailants could meet the definition of an organized crime/gang, these groups lack an organizational hierarchy or long-term vision, and they generally operate on an ad-hoc basis. Criminal elements have broken through security bars and solid wood doors on occasion. Some businesses are also targeted for robbery due to careless cash handling procedures. 

Sexual assault is a concern, particularly for women traveling alone at night.

There are some elements of Asian organized crime involved in illegal gambling, prostitution, cybercrime, and narcotics distribution. In recent years, Australian outlaw motorcycle gangs have also attempted to establish a presence in Fiji, but they have not been responsible for significant crime.

Cybersecurity Issues

Fiji continues to see an increase in cybersecurity concerns related to debit/credit card scams. In 2016, Fijian law enforcement identified ATM skimming devices and related equipment used by criminals to commit fraud. Some banks have undertaken increased security measures on ATMs (anti-tampering and PIN concealment covers), but small regional banks continue to be targeted due to fewer security features. If using an ATM, search for one that has an indoor area with controlled entry and adequate lighting. Travelers should monitor credit and debit card statements for fraudulent activity.

E-mail and social media fraud schemes are also increasing; these scams range from online romance schemes to variations of the Nigerian fraud scams.

Other Areas of Concern

Hotel beaches, while public by law, are accessed mainly by hotel guests and are generally safe. Public access beaches, particularly those in less frequently-trafficked areas, should be avoided after dark. 

Travelers must receive permission from local authorities before visiting villages. Visitors should become familiar with local customs before visiting. 

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Drivers are strongly urged to drive defensively and cautiously. Road conditions in urban areas are generally fair, except for the large potholes that appear following heavy rainstorms. The poor condition of highways in rural areas can be hazardous. In both urban and rural areas, unfenced livestock, stray pets, unwary pedestrians, and numerous large potholes make driving dangerous and particularly hazardous during nighttime hours. In 2016, there were multiple reports of fatal vehicle accidents in which drivers swerved to avoid livestock on highways. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Due to increased number of police vehicles, the enforcement of traffic laws has improved but is still minimal at best. The Fijian government has recently installed traffic cameras throughout the main highways and at stoplights in the city. The locations of the cameras are known by the public but have served to reduce speeding in and around the camera locations.

Public Transportation Conditions

Travelers should use a reputable taxi service with well-maintained vehicles. Due to frequent and sometimes violent crime directed against taxi drivers, travelers are advised not to allow taxis to pick up additional passengers and to refuse entering a taxi if it already has passengers in it. Many taxis lack seatbelts and are in poor condition.

Some mini-bus, bus, and taxi drivers drive recklessly and do not always adhere to traffic laws. There have also been reports of some drivers operating public vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or kava. Many of the buses are older models, and there were several reports in 2015 and 2016 of public buses catching fire. These large public yellow buses tend to pull out in traffic and often fail to properly merge with the flow of traffic.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The airports are relatively free of crime, but there have been reports of items being stolen from checked baggage. This trend continued to decline in 2016, but passengers should maintain awareness of their belongings, utilize TSA approved locks, and retrieve their checked bags as soon as possible. 

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED SUVA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY 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.

In September 2014, Fiji held its first national democratic election since a coup in 2006. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Fiji First party won 59% of the 496,364 votes cast, and Prime Minister Bainimarama was sworn in as the democratically-elected prime minister a short time later. Fiji’s 50-member parliament is comprised of 32 seats for Fiji First, 15 seats for SODELPA, and three seats for NFP. The elections were deemed credible by the international community. A Multinational Observer Group co-led by Australia, Indonesia, and India sent more than 90 observers to polling stations. Nine U.S. observers also participated in the efforts and supported the conclusion that elections were credible and broadly reflected the will of the Fijian people. Fiji has taken notable steps in returning to a democratic country.

In 2016, six individuals were arrested for their involvement in a Pacific Dialogue event to discuss the 2013 Constitution. Those arrested were a mix of opposition leaders, academics, union leaders, and former prime ministers who were said to have violated a Public Order Act Decree. 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, 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.

Civil Unrest 

Although on the surface daily life appears to be calm, history indicates civil unrest could erupt without notice.

In 2014, there were several gatherings that some could be construed as protests. The events were permitted by the government, and no one was arrested or detained.

There were two peaceful protests in 2013. Several protestors were detained for violating the decree against having signs that were critical of the government. No one was criminally charged or harmed during these detainments. 

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Fiji’s ethnic groups include indigenous Fijians (also called iTaukei, which 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 ethnicities. Several of Fiji’s major political parties were created along ethnic lines, and, in 2000, extreme indigenous nationalists supported by elements n the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) committed a coup against a popularly-elected government headed by an Indo-Fijian Prime Minister. In times of political turmoil surrounding earlier coups, ethnic violence perpetrated by indigenous nationalists has targeted the Indo-Fijian population. The current government prioritized the elimination of race-based politics and called for a multicultural, 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 RFMF remains more than 90% iTaukei, though the police force is more ethnically diverse.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Fiji is subject to many natural disasters: cyclones, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, landsides. Although the probability of a major earthquake or tsunami occurring during a particular trip is remote, small-scale earthquakes have occurred.

  • There were two major earthquakes that hit New Zealand in 2010 and a 7.9 earthquake in 2016. In January 2017, an earthquake off the coast of Fiji triggered a short-lived tsunami warning that was ultimately cancelled. 

  • The cyclone (hurricane) season is from November to April. Travelers should understand that public services would likely be unavailable for a significant period following a powerful cyclone. Cyclone activity frequently causes flooding in the coastal or low lying areas, often cutting off resorts, roads, and villages.

  • In February 2016, Fiji was struck by Tropical Cyclone Winston, the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in Fiji and the South Pacific Basin in recorded history. The Category 5 cyclone inflicted extensive damage on many islands, killing 44 people, destroying 40,000 homes, and resulting in upward of U.S.$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 hotels in the tourist areas have up-to-date fire alarms and proper evacuation plans, but travelers are encouraged to ensure that their accommodations have adequate security safeguards.

Water and power outages caused by inclement weather occur periodically but are typically not long-term.

Economic Concerns

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

Personal Identity Concerns

There are concerns relating to personal identity for gender, sexual orientation, and race. Fijians are generally polite to women, but there continue to be cases of sexual assault cases and physical abuse. Instances of sexual assault often involve intoxication or incidences in which the victim is alone in an isolated area. The majority of physical abuse is related to families, as gender-based domestic violence is prevalent. Victims are most often assaulted by a guardian or family member.

LGBTI orientation is generally accepted in Fiji, but the local populace does not use politically correct terms. There have not been any reports of violence related to sexual orientation.

Drug-related Crimes

Drug use contributes to some petty crime, but more serious drug-related crimes are relatively uncommon. However, most American individuals/organizations are not directly affected unless they are involved in illegal activities or associated with criminal groups. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs (including marijuana), are severe; convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.

Kidnapping Threat

There have been limited cases of kidnapping in Fiji, and most instances are family-related issues.

  • In 2016, a female French national employed at the French Embassy was abducted late at night but was released when the vehicle she was in crashed and the police arrived. There was no indication she was targeted because she was a Western diplomat.


Police Response

The Fiji Police Force is generally a professional, albeit under-resourced, law enforcement organization. Recent years have witnessed an improvement in training, accountability, and regional cooperation. However, police generally do not have vehicles to respond to calls, and it is highly unlikely police will arrive in time to disrupt a crime in progress. 

Fiji law permits police officers to search any person, building, vehicle, cargo, or baggage that s/he has reasonable grounds to believe is connected to any offense against public order or the crime decree. Obscene material (pornography) is illegal, and the interpretation as to what constitutes obscene materials is loosely defined.

Freedom of expression is guaranteed, but in practice some restrictions exist. The government enforces the Media Industry Development Decree, which allows for fines when journalists report on issues that are determined to be 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 self-censorship in order to avoid undue government attention and possible repercussions.

Travelers are strongly urged to carry a copy of their passport, as police often ask for identification of all parties involved in any type of incident. 

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

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 allowed to visit the detained citizen. There are no set legal rules on military detention. U.S. citizens detained by the police or the military should demand to speak to a U.S. Embassy representative. Arrested or otherwise detained foreigners have been generally treated well by the police. Except in some very rural locations, police are aware of a U.S. citizen detainee's right to contact the Embassy.

Crime Victim Assistance

Fire or emergency: 911

Police: 917

Victims of crime can expect to be treated fairly and with dignity. Victims can also expect to be frustrated by the relative inefficiency and overly bureaucratic judicial process.

Police/Security Agencies

For administrative calls to the local Fire and Police posts:

 

Fire

Police

Korolevu

650-0516

653-0122

Labasa

881-1333

881-1222

Lautoka

666-0211

666-0222

Nadi

670-0475

670-0222

Suva

331-2877

331-1222

Medical Emergencies

Medical care is limited, though usually adequate for routine medical problems. Emergency services are very basic. Some physicians may have had a portion of their training in the U.S., Australia, or New Zealand, but the majority of medical personnel and equipment typically do not meet the standards of those countries.

Rural areas have extremely limited ambulance services; travelers may contact 911 or St. John's Ambulance (679-330-1439) to summon an ambulance.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Colonial War Memorial Hospital (Suva): 679-331-3444

Suva Private Hospital (Suva): 679-330-3404

Lautoka Hospital (Lautoka): 679-666-0399

Savusavu Hospital (Savusavu): 679 885-0444


Available Air Ambulance Services

The local hospitals work frequently with international evacuation services.

Int'l SOS NZ Ltd (New Zealand) can be reached at +61 2 9372 2468; however, these services require a membership, which could potentially could delay a medevac.

Insurance Guidance

Serious medical emergencies may require travel, including medical evacuations to the U.S., Australia, or New Zealand. The U.S. Embassy recommends all travelers have travel and medical insurance.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

OSAC Country Council Information

U.S. Embassy Suva does not have an OSAC Country Council. The Regional Security Officer will provide country briefings for representatives of American businesses and organizations as requested and can be contacted at: (679) 331-4466 extension 8131. Please contact OSAC’s East Asia Pacific team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Fiji

158 Princes Road

Tamavua, Suva

Hours of Operation: The American Citizens Services (ACS) section is open on Mon-Thurs, 0900-1200 and 1400-1600; Fri, 0900-1200 to appointment holders and persons requesting consular services.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Telephone: (679) 331-4466

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: (679) 772-8049

U.S. citizens needing emergency ACS assistance outside of normal working hours can call (679) 331-4466 and ask for the Duty Officer.

Regional Security Office: (679) 331-4466 x8113.

Website: http://suva.usembassy.gov/   

Consular coverage for multi-post countries

The Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Fiji is also responsible for Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu.

Embassy Guidance

For the latest security and other information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be found, as well as important information for Americans who face emergencies abroad. U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Fiji are reminded to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

Additional Resources

Fiji Country Information Sheet