The country that has the most kidnappings will vary from year to year, but the United Nations has identified some Middle Eastern countries and Mexico as countries with high kidnapping rates.
Kidnapping in countries occurs under a variety of circumstances and with different motivations.
Pakistan and Mexico top the list most recently, while in other years, Belgium and Canada have been on the top list of countries with the most kidnappings.
The country consistently cited as having the most kidnappings is Mexico. Middle Eastern countries also have many kidnappings annually, with some reaching as many as 1,000 kidnappings annually.
Countries will generally have varying motivations for kidnapping, with countries such as Canada having domestic motivations behind kidnapping while countries such as Mexico or South Africa will have higher-level criminal or political motivations behind kidnappings.
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Kidnapping by most criminal codes internationally refers to the unlawful abduction or taking of an individual without their consent and against their own will.
In most cases, this also involves the transportation and confinement of the individual. Fear and force are key markers of the crime, although the taking of the individual is what defines the crime in most international criminal codes.
The criminal codes by the country also do typically hold that willingness to enter a vehicle by the victim does not negate or dismiss the act of kidnapping.
In most kidnapping crimes there are multiple charges for the individual accused, as force, fear, violence, and the infliction of bodily harm can elevate the kidnapping charge to an aggravated charge.
That will also mean that the charges will be more severe for kidnapping and could include additional charges with more severe charges when the victim is a child.
It is important for both political and legal purposes that kidnapping criminal codes across the world are similar – as kidnapping is often motivated by political agenda – although consistency across criminal codes does not always happen.
There are many different motivators for kidnapping, and very often, the motivators vary by country.
The victimology of the kidnapping crime also speaks to the motivation. Children, when abducted, are typically abducted by their parents, but in some countries, children are abducted by a connection in order to manipulate both parents for ransom.
Ransom is a key driver in many kidnappings. Some adult kidnappings are also motivated by money, where the victim is kidnapped and then taken to the bank or an ATM to withdraw funds.
Sexual assault is also another motivator for kidnappings, and unfortunately, children are commonly abducted for this purpose.
In some sections of the world, slavery is a motivator for kidnapping, and this is commonly found in South Sudan.
Sometimes the slaves are obtained and then ransomed for money.
Gang kidnappings also occur and are reported to comprise hundreds of millions in ransom payments annually.
Across the world, there are many different profiles for kidnapping. It is also used as a terrorist tactic and is used in times of war.
Some armies will also engage in kidnapping, and this is referred to as tiger kidnapping.
Tiger kidnapping is performed by armies such as the Real Irish Republican Army or the Continuity Irish Republican Army.
Here, a family member is taken and forced to steal from their employers. Bride kidnapping is common as well, where a bride in some countries is stolen by one family to marry into it.
That practice is still very common in some parts of Asia, particularly in Kyrgyzstan, where the rights of women are few.
Express kidnappings occur in Latin America frequently, for ransom, and the victim is often returned to their families.
There are also some cult motivators and types of kidnapping where a cult member is kidnapped for safety purposes in order to be deprogrammed and counseled back into a normal lifestyle that lacks cult influence; however, this is still illegal.
The countries that are the most dangerous for kidnapping today are Mexico, Columbia, and some parts of the Middle East such as Pakistan and Iraq.
The United Nations named Pakistan and England as having the highest number of kidnappings in the world in 2018.
Earlier, the record was Iraq, which had over 1,500 visitors kidnapped in one single year.
That number did not include the number of citizens kidnapped. In Columbia, some reports years ago have indicated that kidnappings can occur in the tens of thousands, and Mexico can have up to three thousand kidnappings annually.
Place where cases are rising include the Pacific and Asia, and Africa is also considered a high-risk area for kidnappings.
Syria and Lebanon have held high kidnapping rates for the last 9 years since the Syrian war began, and for the same reason, high rates of kidnappings are also seen in neighboring countries.
A primary driver behind the lack of information with high kidnapping rates is the lack of reporting.
Most kidnapping rates are calculated according to police record data, but not every kidnapping, particularly in Mexico, Columbia, and the Middle East, gets reported to local authorities.
Every country has a kidnapping rate, but the countries most known for kidnapping are as follows:
7. the Philippines
16. Brazil and Kenya (same rate)
19. Malaysia and South Africa (same rate)
For countries in the top ten of this list, kidnappings tend to be in the thousands every year.
The bottom half of that list has kidnappings in the hundreds annually. The following is a list of some kidnapping rates for the year 2017, with rates listed as the number of kidnappings per 100,000 people, according to the UN Office on Drug and Crime:
- Belgium and Canada – 10.3
- South Africa – 9.6
- Pakistan – 8.8
- New Zealand – 7.9
- Luxembourg – 7.7
- United Kingdom – 7.3
- Germany – 5.6
- Benin – 4.7
- Ecuador – 3.5
- Cameroon – 3.1
- Cyprus – 2.9
- Bahamas – 2.8
- Portugal and Morocco – 2.1
- Netherlands – 2.0
- Australia – 1.8
- Saudi Arabia – 1.7
- Slovakia, Chile, and Ireland – 1.6
- Romania – 1.4
- Bulgaria and Armenia – 1.2
- Ukraine – 1.1
- Uruguay – 1.0
- Mexico and Panama – 0.9
- Puerto Rico and Greece – 0.7
- United Arab Emirates, Peru, Columbia, and Jamaica – 0.6
- Kazakhstan, Paraguay, and Italy – 0.3
- North Macedonia, Oman, Costa Rica, Czechia, Honduras, and Latvia – 0.2
- Russia, Serbia, Albania, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, and South Korea – 0.1
There are countries with a 0.0 rate of kidnapping and are considered safe in that regard. They include:
Mexico tops the list – or comes close – each year for the greatest number of kidnappings for a variety of reasons.
Mexico does typically have higher crime rates than other countries in some regards, and kidnapping plays a role in this.
Mexico is also home to a lot of visitors annually, and some of them are very wealthy.
This is attractive for Mexicans living in impoverished areas. The most common locations for kidnapping include Tampico, Tijuana, and Juarez, where people are often kidnapped so that their abductors can seek ransom money.
That is where tourists are most at risk. Still, all areas of Mexico can pose a risk of kidnapping.
What other countries should tourists be careful in?
Other countries that tourists should be careful in include Brazil, India, Columbia, and Venezuela.
In Brazil, approximately 1,000 kidnappings happen every year. The most popular locations for that are tourist destinations where the wealthy will visit, such as Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro.
India also has approximately 3 thousand kidnappings annually. Here, child abductions for slavery are the most common form of kidnapping, with children of all ages being used for slave labor.
Tourist abductions of adults also happen here.
Columbia is famous for being a high kidnapping rate country, and so is Venezuela, with up to two thousand kidnappings annually in either country.
Guerrillas, independent militant crime groups, in Columbia will kidnap for ransom, and once they get it, the victims are released.
Kidnapping victims can be held for months in these countries.
How can kidnapping be avoided when traveling?
Kidnapping can be avoided when traveling, with every country offering safe travel tips in their consulates or state departments.
Travelers should check with their local authorities before they visit or travel for these tips.
Some of the more common tips include being careful about style and attire when travelers go out at night.
Wearing a Rolex or a designer handbag may catch the attention of crooks or guerrillas that could kidnap for ransom.
It is also advised to use cash in small bills and credit cards when making payments for anything.
Some travel tips for travelers traveling alone also include not letting people know that you have people that you care about.
Taxi drivers in many countries are doubling as slave hunters or ransom hunters. When they see a wealthy visitor with a large or influential family, that person becomes a potential target or victim.
At the same time, not traveling alone but with groups is also a way to increase safety in countries with high kidnapping rates.