Arab Tourists Reassured

Scotland Yard have insisted there is nowhere in London that should be avoided after the United Arab Emirates released a map of "dangerous areas".

Oxford Street and Piccadilly are among the areas identified in maps published by the UAE foreign ministry as having high rates of pickpocketing, theft and fraud.

Dangerous areas included Marble Arch station, Edgware Road and beyond the Metropole Hotel, as well as an area including Piccadilly, Bond Street, Soho, Leicester Square, Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road.

The ministry describes the West End as an area of global trade and said: "This area includes the famous Selfridges, which attracts many Emiratis."

The popular market area of Shepherd's Bush is also named, as is the area between Queensway and Bayswater stations.

The warning follows two attacks on Emiratis in London this year.

Police made four arrests in April after three Emirati sisters were seriously injured in the middle of the night by an attacker who entered their hotel room near Marble Arch.

Two weeks later an Emirati couple were robbed at gunpoint in a Paddington flat.

Media coverage in the UAE, which also appears on the ministry's London embassy website, quoted Emiratis who said they would avoid the areas listed.

Dubai resident Mona Al Ali, 29, told The National: "I will definitely be avoiding those areas the next time I go to London because this is like an official warning from the ministry.

"I will take it seriously because I can't imagine going to such places without getting scared or worried.

"I think maybe people from the Gulf are more targeted there because of their lifestyle. They might not be too discreet with their jewellery when they travel and they wear nice clothes."

Mohammad Al Awadhi told the same publication that he avoided the "hot zones" of any country when it was advised.

He said: "You have to follow the guidelines from the government. It's a question of being discreet. You have to keep a low profile and be normal. But from my experience overseas, a lot of people are almost inviting criminals over."

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) commander Makhdum Chishty said: "There is absolutely nowhere in London which should be avoided.

"We understand the incidents involving Emirati nationals earlier this year was shocking, but it was also very, very rare.

"London is one of the safest major cities in the world and crime continues to fall and overall crime in Westminster is down by 16.4%.

"Police presence is high and post-Ramadan, with the traditional influx of visitors from the UAE, we reviewed our policing plans so we have a strong presence from our policing teams and officers working in plain clothes.

"We are also profiling busy times of the week when visitor spots and iconic destinations in central London become busy."

He listed steps that visitors could take to keep themselves and their belongings safe, including not carrying large amounts of cash in public, using the hotel room safe, always using a licensed taxi or minicab and asking the hotel concierge for assistance.

He also advised tourists to consider carrying a personal safety alarm, trying to remain on main thoroughfares when sightseeing and to "look confident and walk purposefully to your destination".

Other advice included watching out for pickpockets in crowded places, keep handbags closed and wallets inside pockets, and never leaving bags hanging on the back of a chair.

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