The U.S. State Department recently confirmed the kidnapping of a U.S. citizen in northern Somalia, and called for his or her immediate release (no name is provided due to privacy laws). Here at Travel Insurance Review, we extend our sympathies to the concerned family members and hope for the best possible outcome in this latest hostage-taking.
Let’s take a minute to review the foreign policy for kidnappings.
It is the U.S. government’s policy to deny kidnappers the benefits of ransom, prisoner release, policy changes, or any other acts of concession. In the event of a kidnapping, the U.S. policy is to pursue investigation leading to the apprehension and prosecution of hostage-takers who illegally capture and detain U.S. citizens.
U.S. policy is a similar stance as that of the UK, which was recently criticized by a British couple who felt their Foreign Office could have done more to advise their family after their own kidnapping by Somali pirates and their subsequent 388-day hostage ordeal.
The reason for the harsh stance? Ultimately, it’s for the protection of the citizens. If the U.S. or any government automatically conceded to the requests of kidnappers, no citizen would be safe from kidnapping ever again. While Western governments could perhaps do more to contain the situations and assist the families, the long-standing rule of no compromise remains.
What can vacation travelers do?
Vacation travelers are encouraged to review the current travel warnings on the U.S. State Department website and understand the risks of their intended destination. In the circumstance of an American citizen being reported missing, the government will help locate the individual using the information provided by their family or friends. They can work with local authorities in the foreign country and very whether the missing person has been hospitalized, arrested, or otherwise unable to communicate with those looking for them. Read more about the U.S. State Department’s role in a missing person crisis.
In all situations, the more information provided, the better the chances are for locating the missing person’s whereabouts. This is another reason we recommend leaving your itinerary and passport with someone you trust back home when you travel – so they have the information necessary to aid authorities.
What about business travelers?
Business owners and business travelers may find it helpful to look into corporate kidnap and ransom insurance, often called K&R insurance, which gives corporations some funds for ransom and extortion payments. In some cases, the travel insurance will cover other costs, such as experts to help negotiate the hostage’s release. This is highly specialized insurance, however, and designed to cover high profile or critical employees.