September 2, 2008
Kuwait is a small, oil-rich constitutional monarchy with 10% of proven world oil reserves. Foreign workers constitute approximately 90% of the labor force. Kuwaiti
Passports and visas are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Kuwait. U.S. citizens can obtain visitor visas for a fee at the port of entry in Kuwait. Travelers who overstay their visas may be required to pay large fines before leaving Kuwait. Travelers who leave Kuwait without completing Kuwaiti exit procedures may also be required to pay large fines if they return to and attempt to depart from Kuwait. This includes travelers proceeding via Kuwait to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. Effective May 15, 2007, the Government of Kuwait no longer admits travelers with a contractor identification card. All contractors entering or transiting the State of Kuwait should have a valid passport. Visas can be obtained upon arrival in Kuwait for a fee of 3 Kuwaiti Dinar (KD). For further information on entry and exit requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Kuwait at 2940 Tilden Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 966-0702, or the Kuwaiti Consulate in New York City, telephone (212) 973-4318.
Kuwaiti officials are extremely sensitive about travel to Iraq. There have been instances in which Americans, especially those of Iraqi descent, have been detained for questioning at ports of entry/exit. Americans seeking to travel to Iraq through Kuwait have also on occasion been turned around and/or detained. On a number of occasions the border between Iraq and Kuwait has been closed without notice, stranding Americans on either side of the border.
Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis, including Americans, who have been charged with criminal offenses, placed under investigation, or involved in unresolved financial disputes with local business partners are subject to travel bans. These bans, which are rigidly enforced, prevent the individual from leaving Kuwait for any reason until the matter is resolved. Travel bans can be initiated by any person for almost any reason and may remain in place for a substantial period of time while the case is being investigated. Expatriates have been detained in Kuwait for cases with seemingly little or no evidence or legal merit. A person who has influence with the Kuwaiti government can ensure that a travel ban remains in place even if a judge or government official states the ban should be lifted. In the case of purely financial disputes, it may be possible to depart the country if a local sponsor pledges funds equal to the amount in dispute. Once such legal orders are in place, the U.S. Embassy can assist American citizens in obtaining legal representation, but cannot overcome the ban on exit from the country until the matter is resolved.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Americans in Kuwait should exercise a high level of security awareness. The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of further terrorist actions against U.S. citizens and interests abroad, specifically in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. Americans considering travel to Kuwait should review the Worldwide Caution.
All U.S. citizens in Kuwait should exercise caution, maintain a low profile, and avoid areas where Westerners are known to congregate. Heightened security awareness should be exercised at all hotels and residential complexes, as terrorists in the past have specifically targeted hotel chains perceived as Western along with a variety of Western housing facilities. Military members, as well as civilians and contractors related to military interests, are also potential targets.
Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Terrorist actions may include bombings, hijackings, hostage taking, kidnappings and assassinations. Increased security at official U.S. facilities may lead terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as public transportation, residential areas and apartment complexes, schools and places of worship, oil-related facilities and personnel, and public areas where people congregate including restaurants, hotels, clubs, and shopping areas. U.S. citizens are advised to immediately report any unusual or suspicious activity in Kuwait to the Kuwaiti police or to the U.S. Embassy.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait has an active warden program and records warden notices in both English and Arabic for audio playback. The English-language notices can be heard by calling +965-259-1048; Arabic-language notices are available at +965-259-1049.
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
Additional information regarding security and crime in Kuwait can be found in the Overseas Security Advisory Council’s Crime and Safety Report.
This document can be found at www.osac.gov.
CRIME: The crime threat in Kuwait is assessed as low. Violent crimes against expatriates are rare, but do occur. The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to take the same security precautions in Kuwait that one would practice in the United States or any other large city abroad. Physical and verbal harassment of women are continuing problems. The Kuwaiti police accept crime reports at the police station with jurisdiction where the crime occurred. If filing a crime report, it is advisable that an American citizen be accompanied by a person who speaks Arabic or a local attorney. The Embassy’s List of Attorneys is available on the Embassy web site at http://kuwait.usembassy.gov/attorneys.html. Filing a crime report can take several hours as a police investigator will take the victim’s statement orally while composing his investigative report. In all cases of abuse, the victim must obtain a medical report from a Kuwaiti hospital in order to file a police report.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
The local equivalent of the “911” emergency line in Kuwait is “777” and can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The quality and range of services provided by the emergency line are not equivalent to those provided in the U.S. and response times may vary greatly depending on the time of day and the location of the emergency.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: The health care system continues to develop, with many government and private medical facilities available in Kuwait. Medical care at government-run clinics and hospitals is provided at low cost to residents of Kuwait. Private physicians and hospitals charge fees for services, and some do not accept local health insurance. Many hospital and clinic services do not compare to U.S. standards, and staff often have no U.S. experience or training. For information on avian influenza (bird flu), please refer to the Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
The government of Kuwait has strict regulations regarding certain diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis.
Medical examinations are required for all residency applications and any applicants who are found positive for these restricted diseases will be asked to leave the country immediately and will be permanently barred from re-entry.
Please inquire directly with the Embassy of Kuwait at http://www.embassy.org/embassies/kw.html before you travel.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Kuwait is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in Kuwait is hazardous. Although Kuwait has an extensive and modern system of well-lit roads, excessive speeding on both primary and secondary roads, coupled with lax enforcement of traffic regulations and a high density of vehicles (one vehicle for every 2.8 residents), leads to frequent and often fatal accidents. In 2006, the government of Kuwait reported 60410 vehicular accidents with 460 deaths and 9100 serious injuries.
However, these numbers are approximations and the actual numbers are believed to be much higher.
The average age of death was between 21 and 30 years. There are now over one million motor vehicles registered in Kuwait. Incidents of road rage, inattention and distraction on the part of drivers, poor driving skills, and highway brinksmanship are common in Kuwait, and can be unsettling to Western drivers in Kuwait who are accustomed to more rigid adherence to traffic laws.
The government-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company operates bus services throughout the Kuwait City metropolitan area on 50 different routes, which are widely used by the low-income expatriate labor force. Taxis are available at major hotels and pick up passengers at other locations upon telephonic request. Unaccompanied women should not use taxis after dark. It is now possible to hail taxis on streets. Taxis have meters, but fares are more commonly negotiated.
Visitors can use international driving permits issued by their respective countries within the time limit of their visas; however, the visitor must also have liability insurance. It is illegal to drive in Kuwait without a license and car registration documents. If you are stopped and cannot produce them, you may be taken to a police station and held until they are presented on your behalf.
The Government of Kuwait may provide American citizens with a Kuwaiti driver’s license if their valid American driver’s license is first certified by the American Embassy. This service costs 9 KD and is available from the American Citizens Services Unit of the Consular Section. The Embassy’s certification must be authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American permit must be translated by an approved translation service. Additional information is available at the Embassy’s Consular Section.
If you are in an accident, Kuwaiti law mandates that you must remain at the scene until the police arrive. The use of front seat belts is mandatory in Kuwait. Driving is on the right side of the road. Speed limits are posted. Making a right turn on a red light is not permitted unless there is a special lane to do so with a yield sign. Parking is not allowed where the curb is painted black and yellow. Digital cameras for registering traffic violations, including speeding, are in use on Kuwaiti roads.
Driving while under the influence of alcohol (possession and consumption of alcohol is illegal in Kuwait) is a serious offense, which may result in fines, imprisonment, and/or deportation. Repeat traffic violations or violations of a serious nature may also result in the deportation of an expatriate offender. When a driver flashes his/her high beams in Kuwait, it is meant as a request to move your car into a slower lane to allow the driver with the flashing beams to proceed ahead.
Kuwait has one of the highest per capita rates of cellular telephone ownership in the world and using a cellular telephone while driving remains legal. Local emergency service organizations may be contacted by dialing 777. Ambulance crews do not respond as quickly as in the United States and do not often include trained paramedics.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the web site of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior at www.moi.gov.kw for information and statistics in Arabic about traffic safety and road conditions in Kuwait.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Kuwait’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Kuwait’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
The workweek in Kuwait is Sunday through Thursday for most businesses, government offices and commercial banks.
Kuwaiti customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Kuwait of items such as firearms, religious materials, pornography, and alcohol. Alcohol, pork products, and pornography are illegal in Kuwait. Travelers with prescription medications should carry them in their original packaging or bottle, as dispensed, and carry a copy of their prescription in case customs authorities question their importation into Kuwait. Kuwaiti customs authorities screen the baggage of all travelers entering Kuwait. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Kuwait in Washington, D.C. or Kuwait's Consulate in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Photographing government and public buildings, military installations and economic infrastructure, particularly that related to the oil industry, is against the law and can result in arrest, investigation, and prosecution. Also, some traditionally-dressed women find being photographed to be offensive and may complain to the local police. If photographing public scenes or persons, visitors should take care to ask permission beforehand and not to inadvertently cause offense that could lead to an official complaint to the authorities.
Humiliating a person, including a police officer or a public official, is a crime in Kuwait similar to disorderly conduct or harassment in the United States. A person charged with humiliating another is subject to police investigation and possible prosecution. Persons under investigation can be prevented from departing Kuwait. Proselytizing is prohibited for all religions except Islam.
Please see our Customs Information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Kuwaiti laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kuwait are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Kuwait are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Kuwait. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait is located at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Street, Block 6, Plot 14, Bayan, Kuwait. The mailing address is PO Box 77, Safat 13001, Kuwait. The primary telephone numbers are 965-259-1001 or 259-1002. The fax number is 965-259-1438 or 538-0282. The after-hours number is 965-538-2097. Additional information may also be obtained through the Embassy's web site at http://kuwait.usembassy.gov
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Kuwait dated January 16, 2008 to update the sections on Information for Victims of Crime and Medical Facilities and Health Information.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Kuwait City, Feb 6, 2017 (AFP) - A fire broke out Monday at a cultural centre in Kuwait that houses the Gulf state's opera house, the fire department said. The blaze started during maintenance work on the titanium roof, the department said in a statement on Twitter. It said the fire was put out and caused no injuries.
Parts of the roof were seen to be missing after the blaze but it was unclear if that was the result of the maintenance work or the fire. The centre was launched in October with a performance at the 2,000-seat opera house by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli. The sprawling 214,000-square-metre (2.3 million square feet) centre, located in the heart of the capital Kuwait City, cost $750 million.
[A map showing Kuwait and Iraq is available at
6. WHO: The treatment of diarrhoea, a manual for physicians and other senior health workers. 4th ed. 2005.
[Excerpted from WHO
Most swine influenza viruses (SIVs) do not cause disease in humans. However, some countries have reported cases of human infection with SIVs. Most of these human infections have been mild and the viruses have not spread further to other people. The H1N1 virus that caused the influenza pandemic in 2009-2010, thought to have originated in swine, is an example of an SIV that was able to spread easily among people and also cause disease.
India is bounded by the Himalayas in the north and extends 2000 miles southwards into the Indian Ocean, between the Bay of Bengal on the East and the Arabian Sea on the West. The cou
Most of the country is tropical or sub-tropical and subject to seasonal monsoon winds. This is especially true in the southwestern regions. * New Delhi There are three distinct seasons in New Delhi. Between mid-April to mid-July there is the hot dry season with dust storms. From mid-July to September there is a rainy season and a cooler season from October to March. * Bombay Bombay has a tropical climate and has an annual average temperature of about 270C. The hot humid season occurs in April and May. A monsoon occurs from June to September with about 70" of rainfall. A cool season extends from November to February when the temperatures can drop somewhat. * Calcutta Humidity remains high throughout most of the year. This is especially true between May to October when humidity levels of 90% are common. Most of the rainfall occurs during the monsoon season between June to October. * Madras The climate remains tropical throughout the year. December and January are relatively cool months and the heat increases rapidly from March to June. Premonsoon rains bring relief in July and the temperatures decrease slowly until the cooler season returns in November.
Safety & Security:
For most Irish travellers this will not be a major concern. However, the experience of travelling through any of the major cities is something many tourists will not forget. Taking care on Indian roads is a constantly essential activity. Parts of the country are unstable and recent earthquakes have led to disruptions to the transport infrastructure. As in many other countries travelling alone or late at night is unwise. In Kashmir tourists have been targeted and it is sensible to check you itinerary carefully before you travel throughout the country. In the northeastern part of the country (Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, and Meghalaya) there have been sporadic incidents of violence by ethnic insurgent groups, including the bombing of buses and trains reported.
General Health Issues
It is essential that travellers recognise that there is a higher risk to their health while travelling in India. These risks are mainly associated with malaria and food and water borne diseases but conditions like accidents, rabies, tuberculosis and cholera are also present in many regions.
Food Borne Disease
A vegetarian diet is common throughout the country. Frequently the care taken with food preparation will be below standards usually seen in Western Europe. Work surfaces may be contaminated and food handlers may themselves infect the food before it is served. Cold foods should be avoided, where possible, and travellers should only consume hot food which has been freshly prepared. Stir fries may not reach sufficient cooking temperatures and need to be treated with great care. Shell fish and lettuce should always be avoided as they are one of the main ways food borne diseases are transmitted.
Water Borne Disease
Tap water should NOT be used for drinking or brushing teeth unless the smell of chlorine is obvious. Don’t use water from a jug in the hotel bedroom for anything except general washing. Sealed mineral water bought from your hotel should be used for all consumption and for brushing teeth.
Malaria is usually transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. This may occur throughout India, including all the major cities. The highest risk time is during the monsoon season (May to October approximately) but there is risk throughout the year. Travellers should take care against mosquito bites and maintain their prophylactic tablets during their time in India and also for a further four weeks after leaving the country.
This viral disease is transmitted by any infected warm-blooded animal. Dogs, cats, monkeys etc are frequently involved. Travellers should avoid all contact with animals and any bite (lick or scratch) should be treated by immediately washing out the area, applying an antiseptic and then seeking urgent medical attention. India reports many thousand deaths each year from this dreadful disease.
Most short term travellers should consider vaccination cover against Poliomyelitis, Typhoid, Tetanus and Hepatitis A. Malaria tablets will also be required. For longer trips please contact the Tropical Bureau at the numbers below.
Other Health Information
A full range of information on healthy travelling overseas can be obtained from the educational department of the Tropical Medical Bureau.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Kolkata can be found on a map of West Bengal at
World Travel News Headlines
Hanoi, Dec 13, 2018 (AFP) - Floods caused by heavy downpours have killed 13 people in central Vietnam, officials said Thursday, as farmers scrambled to save crops and livestock ahead of more bad weather forecast for this week. Torrential rains have lashed six provinces in the centre of the country since Saturday, killing thousands of cows and chickens and flooding several cities -- including the coastal resort town of Danang. More than 50 centimetres (20 inches) of rain hit some areas, with more downpours expected in the coming days, the disaster management office said Thursday. "Thirteen people were killed, while one remains missing in Quang Ngai province," the office said. Around 12,000 hectares of crops were destroyed, and some 160,000 livestock killed, it added.
One farmer in Quang Nam province said he lost all his chickens in the flooding, costing him tens of thousands of dollars. "The water receded but thousands of our chickens were dead. We had to collect them for burial as the smell was so bad," Nguyen Thanh said, quoted by state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper. Several areas in Quang Nam and Quang Ngai provinces were still inundated on Thursday after hydropower plants discharged reservoir waters. Vietnam is frequently hit by heavy downpours during the typhoon season from May to October, but forecasters said the rains arrived late this year. More than 200 people have been killed in weather-related disasters in 2018, down from 389 last year.
Bangkok, Dec 12, 2018 (AFP) - A French tourist was gunned down early Wednesday by an off-duty Thai cop after a drunken bar fight in a seedy Bangkok district, police said. The 41-year-old Parisian was shot dead at a downtown apartment block after an altercation with the police sergeant major who had approached the tourist's Thai girlfriend. "They were drunk... they started to argue and then had a fist fight but the policeman couldn't fight back," the Chief of Thailand's Immigration Police Surachate Hakpan told AFP. "The policeman followed him back to his place and shot him twice," he said, adding the victim had been in Thailand for several months.
The officer has been arrested and "will be fired... and prosecuted on a murder charge", Surachate added. Police are hunting a second suspect seen on CCTV. Gruesome pictures circulated on Thai media showed the victim lying in a pool of blood in front of a doughnut shop at his apartment block. Bangkok is one of the world's most visited cities, famed for its food and racy nightlife, much of it around Nana district where the murder took place. Thailand as a grim reputation for its gun culture, with drunken arguments, business disputes and soured romances frequently resolved by violence.
Mexico City, Dec 12, 2018 (AFP) - A massive fireworks explosion during a procession at a Mexican church killed eight people Tuesday and left some 50 wounded, authorities said. Two children aged 11 and 12 were among those killed in the accident, which occurred around dawn at the San Jose parish atrium in Tequisquiapan, some 145 kilometres (90 miles) northwest of Mexico City.
Parishioners had donated the fireworks for a festival, but "something went wrong and they exploded," said Gabriel Bastarrachea, emergency response official for the state of Queretaro. A video posted on social media showed people marching toward the church in a festive procession when suddenly a giant, fiery blast sent them running and screaming.
It was the latest in a string of deadly fireworks accidents in Mexico, where a thriving but dangerous cottage industry supplies a seemingly endless array of colourful explosives to celebrate holidays and festivals. At least 24 people were killed in a series of fireworks explosions last July in the town of Tultepec in central Mexico, and 42 people were killed there when a rocket exploded in December 2016 at the height of the Christmas fireworks rush.
Bogota, Dec 11, 2018 (AFP) - The abandoned building where Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar lived will be covered in posters paying tribute to the victims of his Medellin Cartel before it is torn down next year. The exhibition is part of a move by municipal authorities to tell the other side of Escobar's story -- that of his victims -- to counter a surge of television series glamorizing his life and that of his cartel. "Respect our pain, honour our victims (1983-1994). 46,612 fewer lives," reads the message on one of the posters that now greet Medillin's "narco-tourists" flocking to the Monaco apartment block.
Portraits of slain journalist Guillermo Cano, gunned down in 1986, former presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan and police chief Valdemar Quintero -- both murdered in 1989 -- are emblazoned over a message that reads, in English: "It is not fiction, it is reality." Mayor Federico Gutierrez told reporters that the tourist site had become a "symbol of illegality." "Now, there are messages that should lead us to reflect," he said. The posters will remain affixed to the building until municipal workers tear it down on February 22, more than 25 years after Escobar was shot dead by police in 1993. The former luxury block will be replaced by a municipal park.
Beni, DR Congo, Dec 11, 2018 (AFP) - Children account for a third of Ebola cases in an outbreak of the disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with hundreds orphaned or isolated, the United Nations said on Tuesday. Nearly 300 people have died from the highly contagious disease since August in the restive east around the city of Beni.
The UN children's agency UNICEF said the organisation and its partners had identified more than 400 children who have been orphaned or isolated during the outbreak. "We are deeply concerned by the growing number of children confirmed to have contracted Ebola," said UNICEF's Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier, returning from Beni. "The earlier children infected with Ebola receive treatment in a specialised health facility, the greater their chances of survival. Community mobilisation and public awareness activities are also crucial."
After it was declared on August 1 -- the tenth outbreak in DR Congo since 1976 -- at least 285 people have died, according to the last health ministry update on December 9. Nearly 44,000 people have been vaccinated. The outbreak has hit an area already struggling with violence from armed groups. In November, medical and vaccination efforts were briefly suspended and health workers evacuated after clashes between UN peacekeepers and fighters from the local Allied Democratic Forces militia.
Paris, Dec 11, 2018 (AFP) - The soaring Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs-Elysees in Paris will reopen Wednesday after being covered in graffiti and ransacked during anti-government protests which rocked the capital on December 1, the French monuments commission said. The arc, under which lies the tomb of the unknown soldier, commemorating France's war dead, has been a focal point of the "yellow vest" rallies against fuel tax increases and the cost of living which began on November 17. But the demonstrations degenerated into daylong clashes with police early this month, with protesters spray-painting the arc with slogans such as "the yellow vests will win."
The protesters later managed to break into the monument where they smashed sculptures and display cases in an underground gallery and snatched commemorative medals and other items. They also snuffed out the eternal flame burning on the tomb of the unknown soldier. Some protesters were also seen on the top of the landmark building which offers panoramic views of the capital. "All the networks and equipment essential for the security and proper functioning of the monument will have been restored and repaired," the commission said in a statement Tuesday. "Some furniture, notably in the gift shop and library, have been temporarily repaired while awaiting new installations," it added. It said the damage was estimated at several hundred thousands of euros (dollars). Thirteen people were charged last week over the looting and destruction and investigations are continuing to identify other suspects.
Madrid, Dec 11, 2018 (AFP) - Spanish railway workers will stage a nationwide strike on December 21 and January 7 during the busy Christmas holiday period over job cuts and working conditions, a union said Tuesday. The "main reason" for the strike is the "continued reduction in the number of staff" at state train operator Renfe and state rail infrastructure company Adif, the CCOO union, one of the main trade unions representing rail workers, said in a statement. "We are mobilising to recover the jobs which have been lost, improve purchasing power and ensure agreed pay increases come into effect," said Manuel Nicolas Taguas, general secretary of the railway workers sector at the CCOO. The union says that since 2005 the workforce employed by the two companies in charge of Spain's rail network has been slashed by around 5,000 workers to roughly 26,000 employees. The union representing Renfe rail guards has called a one day strike on December 14 to protest working conditions.
Nairobi, Dec 10, 2018 (AFP) - South Sudan will vaccinate key health workers against Ebola close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, which faces a new epidemic, the World Health Organization said Monday. The ministry of health's vaccination campaign, with cooperation from the WHO, will target healthcare and frontline workers in the high-risk states of Juba, Yei, Yambio and Nimule, the UN agency said in a statement. South Sudan is one of several countries bordering the vast DRC, where the new outbreak of the highly contagious viral disease had since August claimed 271 lives by December 6, according to Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga.
A total of 2,160 doses of the experimental vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV have been allocated to South Sudan for a programme starting on December 19. This trial vaccine is not yet licenced but is considered safe and provided "under the compassionate-use guidelines in response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in DRC", the WHO said. Like neighbouring Uganda, where similar measures have been taken for health personnel, South Sudan has declared a state of alert because of the risk that Ebola may be carried into its territory. At present, no cases have been reported, according the WHO. The experimental vaccine first went on trial during the terrible epidemic of Ebola that ravaged parts of West Africa between the end of 2013 and 2016, at a cost of more than 11,300 lives. The disease spreads through contact with bodily fluids from other people or infected animals.
The vaccine was created by Canadian public health specialists at the National Microbiology Laboratory and is considered highly effective by the WHO, but it works only against the Ebola virus-Zaire strain, confirmed in the outbreak in the DRC. South Sudan has been torn by civil war for five years in a conflict that has left nearly 400,000 dead. More than four million people -- about a third of the population -- have fled. The main belligerents signed a peace accord in September, but the work of humanitarian organisations remains complicated and dangerous. Participants in the vaccination programme have been trained on rVSV-ZEBOV and undertaken a simulation exercise. Meanwhile, the Ebola preparedness contingency plan covers measures ranging from screening travellers, community engagement and provision for safe and dignified funerals, the WHO said.
Bangkok, Dec 10, 2018 (AFP) - An Iranian man has been arrested after using travel freebies to lure an unsuspecting Japanese tourist into smuggling a bag of clothes laced with crystal meth, Thai police said Monday. The tourist, whose name has not been disclosed, found the deal on a travel website that offered free getaways to Thailand, Shanghai and Frankfurt, complete with thousands in spending money.
But after arriving in Thailand last week, he was handed "suspicious" luggage for his next trip to Shanghai, Itthipol Itthisarnronnachai, deputy chief of Thailand's immigration department, told reporters. "Inside the bag, he found clothes that felt more solid than usual. He then contacted the Japanese embassy," Itthipol said. Police said the clothes had been coated with crystal methamphetamine -- known as ice.
Four bags of the drug were also found, adding up to 2.2 kilogrammes (4.9 pounds) in total. Thailand gets 35 million tourists a year and some fall prey to low-level scams or robbery, but few are swept up in transnational drug-running. "It's a never-seen-before method, luring tourists to traffick drugs out of the country," Itthipol added.
Demand for meth is surging in the region at a time when authorities are attempting to crack down on the lucrative business. Police said the Iranian national was arrested when he went to retrieve the luggage after the Japanese man pretended to be sick and said he wanted to cancel the trip. They found 10 kilogrammes of ice and ice-coated clothing in the suspect's apartment. "We will pursue this case and investigate networks in Thailand and Japan to take down this scam," Itthipol said.
Frankfurt am Main, Dec 10, 2018 (AFP) - Germany was plunged into transport chaos Monday as most train services were halted by a railworkers' strike over pay, affecting millions of passengers. Inter-city and regional services as well as many urban commuter trains were cancelled throughout Europe's biggest economy by the four-hour stoppage from 5:00 am (0400 GMT), Deutsche Bahn (DB) said. The strike halted all high-speed ICE trains and other inter-city services as well as most cargo trains, and its ripple effects and delays were expected to continue well into the afternoon. In the capital Berlin, where additionally the entire public announcement system broke down, frustrated commuters were asked to switch from S-Bahn commuter trains operated by DB to subways, buses or trams.
The strike came after talks broke down Saturday between the DB and the EVG rail workers' union, which is demanding a 7.5-percent salary rise for 160,000 employees. "The employer made offers which did not correspond to the demands of our members," said EVG negotiator Regina Rusch-Ziemba. DB shot back and described the strike as a "completely unnecessary escalation", insisting its offer was "attractive and met the main demands" of employees. DB had offered a pay rise of 5.1 percent in two phases, with an option for staff to take extra time off instead, and a one-off payment of 500 euros ($570), the DPA national news agency reported. Deutsche Bahn in a tweet also denied it had broken off the negotiations, charging that "the EVG left the talks and went on strike". "DB remains ready to continue the negotiations at any time. There is an open invitation for today."
The strike also impacted DB customer services offices, meaning that in many stations passengers were left without information over loudspeakers or display boards. DB said that purchased tickets would remain valid until next Sunday or could be refunded and urged passengers to delay travel where possible. It also called on the union -- which threatened follow-up strikes if necessary -- to return to the negotiating table quickly. A DB spokeswoman said: "Parties that negotiate must be prepared to make concessions. DB has asked the EVG to continue the talks this afternoon."