International tourists in Jamaica have been warned to not leave their resorts after the Caribbean nation’s prime minister declared a state of emergency, citing “crime and violence, in particular murders” that have gripped certain parts of the country.
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that the state of emergency largely centers on the parish of St James, which includes the popular tourist town of Montego Bay, Sky News reported. Last year, there were 335 murders recorded in St James alone, more than double the number recorded in any other parish.
The British Foreign Office warned tourists about the extent of the danger: “You should follow local advice, including restrictions in selected areas. You should limit your movements outside of resorts in the area at this time, and exercise particular care if traveling at night.”
“Local media have reported that a major military operation is underway in parts of St James,” the release continued. “This may result in road closures and travel delays. You should exercise caution if you’re in the area.”
The Canadian government followed suit with a similar warning to visitors at Montego Bay, warning of reports of alleged sexual assaults at tourist resorts carried out by staff and even other tourists, CBC reported.
“If you are staying at a resort in the affected area, restrict your movements beyond resort security perimeters,” Travel Canada said in an advisory. “If you do travel outside these perimeters, use transportation arranged or provided by the resort.”
The violence was reportedly sparked by “the grave danger posed by gangs and individuals who have, for too long, been holding the country to ransom, and threatening from the gains arising from the difficult but necessary economic policies put in place by successive administrations,” the Jamaican Chamber of Commerce said.
Holness announced that the security forces deployed to St James would be granted extra powers, adding that some rights for citizens have been suspending in light of the emergency.