Bahamas warns citizens visiting US to exercise 'extreme caution' with police

The Bahamian government issued its travel advisory following two fatal police shootings last week.

Carlo Allegri/Reuters/File
A Dallas police officer attends a Sunday service following the multiple police shootings in Dallas, Texas. After a violent week, the Bahamas government issued a statement advising its citizens to "exercise extreme caution" when interacting with American police officers.

On Friday, the Bahamas's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration issued a travel advisory for citizens traveling to the United States to “not be confrontational and cooperate” with police, joining several other countries that warn about violence in America.

The advisory was in response to “recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by police officers.” The Bahamas, whose population is 85 percent black, will be celebrating its Independence Day on Sunday. Many Bahamians will spend their vacation in the United States.

Last week, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both black men, were shot and killed by police officers. The tragic week ended on Thursday with the deaths of five police officers during an otherwise peaceful protest march.

Although the Caribbean police have been singled out for violence toward citizens “on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” racial biases have not played as large a role in profiling as they have in the United States. In 2015, black people in the US were three times more likely to be killed by police than by white people, according to Mapping Police Violence, and 30 percent of black people killed by the police were unarmed.

Racial tensions are not the only source of travel advisories issued to those visiting the Unites States. Canada and Germany have issued warnings about the prevalence of guns, which are far easier to obtain in the United States. The United Arab Emirates advised its citizens against wearing their traditional white robes, headscarves, and headbands when traveling to foreign countries after Ohio police detained an Emirati man because of his garb last week.

"They were brutal with me," Ahmed Almenhali told The National, a UAE newspaper. "They pressed forcefully on my back. I had several injuries and bled from the forceful nature of their arrest."

Officers found Almenhali had not made statements related to ISIS and was not in possession of any weapons, according to The National. In fact, the police referred to Almenhali’s clothing as a criminal indicator in their report, Julia Shearson, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Cleveland, told The Independent.

Caribbean-Americans in particular, however, face disproportionate risks when interacting with police. In 2015, 71 people were killed by police officers in Florida. Miami-Dade county, which has the highest proportion of people of Caribbean descent in the United States, saw the highest number of those deaths, at 15. Black suspects composed 45 percent of those fatalities.

If a Bahamian enters a tense situation with an officer, the Ministry advises that he or she “allow consular offices for The Bahamas to deal with the issues. Do not get involved in political or other demonstrations under any circumstances and avoid crowds.”

In recent weeks, the US State Department has issued travel warnings for Venezuela, Iraq, Bangladesh, Mali, and Laos, countries with regions of intense violence. In its Venezuela travel warning, the State Department report noted that unrest, violence, and looting “elicit a strong police and security force response that can include the use of violence against the participants; several deaths have been reported during such protests.”

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