South Africa: Security a Top Priority for JRS
03 August 2015

Retired Major of the British Army and current Global Safety Adviser to JRS, John Campbell (Gushwell F. Brooks/Jesuit Refugee Service)
In the work that Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) does across the world, security is a top priority. Our staff, volunteers, implementing partners and the refugees and asylum seekers we assist all need to be protected.

Johannesburg, 3 August 2015 - In a world where crime, conflict, persecution and terrorism is prevalent, security needs to be prioritised. For some it is something they fail to take real cognisance of, for others it is an obsession to the point of paranoia. The balance that needs to be struck, is one where you are vigilant enough to avoid danger and dangerous situations whilst being able to enjoy a reasonable quality of life at home and at work.

In the work that Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) does across the world, security is a top priority. Our staff, volunteers, implementing partners and the refugees and asylum seekers we assist all need to be protected. The risk could be posed by crime, a situation that is globally prevalent, or terrorism, especially in areas that seem to be flashpoints.

Retired Major of the British Army and current Global Safety Adviser to JRS, John Campbell, has a wealth of knowledge to share on what it involves to remain safe and protected in our personal lives and at work. He spent his time in the Southern Africa Region recently, travelling to Malawi and South Africa, assessing potential security risks and imparting his invaluable experience and knowledge on how to stay safe.

Campbell Describes himself as “the original child soldier” since he joined the army at the tender age of 15 in 1961. As to why he joined the army at such an early age, he explains: “I was born into an army family. I was born in 1946, a year after the end of the World War 2 and one of my earliest memories was growing up in occupied Germany.” He spent 32 years in the British Army, becoming Officer 20 years since joining, he then went on to serve as a Field Safety Adviser for the UNHCR, for the Asia Pacific region, based in Jakarta, for a further 15 years.

His last major military operation with the British Army was during the Iraqi Gulf War, in the early 1990s. His entry into humanitarian work followed soon, as he was part of an attachment to observe the peace process in Cambodia. His work with the UNHCR took him to Balkan region, Kenya, Somalia, Sri Lanka and far and wide across the world.

Following serious surgery in 2004, he opted to take early retirement two years later, in 2006. Aged 60, being retired and still recovering from serious surgery, Campbell amazingly, still registered and studied toward a Master’s Degree in Strategic Studies in Singapore. In September 2014 he volunteered his services to JRS and has been sharing his insights into security and safety across the world, wherever JRS has a presence. He has been to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Thailand and Lebanon – to name but a few. He will continue to share his insights wherever JRS is and based on his experience, it will most certainly be invaluable!

Some of the essential tips he shared with the Southern Africa Regional Office as well as the South Africa Country Office include:

On Vigilance:

  • ·         We need the ability to be conscious of events, objects, or situations around you.
  • ·         We need to be prepared for the unexpected.

On Personal Security while on foot:

  • ·         Move in pairs wherever possible.
  • ·         Move with confidence.
  • ·         Use peripheral vision, but also look around yourself, be aware of others.
  • ·         Don’t walk head-down.
  • ·         Be alert if someone bumps you.
  • ·         Familiarise yourself with routes.
  • ·         Avoid displaying attractive items.
  • ·         Give up if mugged.
  • ·         Carry “throwaway wallet” and old cellphone.

On Driving in and around Johannesburg and other major cities:

  • ·         Beware of screen “windscreen-men”.
  • ·         Keep valuables out of sight.
  • ·         Remember beggars check cars for valuables.
  • ·         Don’t stop for flashing lights or for single blue “police” lights.
  • ·         Don’t adjust GPS at the roadside.
  • ·         Programme Numbers on cellphones for “speed-dial.
  • ·         Consider contingencies – “what if?”

What happens when you are attacked in the office or at home, in what has been referred to as the “marauding attack”? Campbell suggests one of three basic responses – in order of preference; run, hide and fight:

Run:

  • ·         If you assess that you can do so safely, run to the nearest safe location – know our exits.
  • ·         Keep solid structures between you and the attackers.
  • ·         Stay as low as possible when running.
  • ·         Being hidden does not mean you are safe from bullets.

Hide:

  • ·         If it is not safe to run then the alternative is to hide.
  • ·         Try to have cover from bullets when in a hiding place.
  • ·         If there is a room – lock the door and barricade the inside.
  • ·         Be ready to change your plan and escape if the opportunity presents itself.

Fight:

  • ·         Whenever the issue of self-defence is raised, it should be clear that unless you are expert with years of experience – don’t fight back.
  • ·         IN A SCENARIO WHICH YOU BELIEVE IS LIFE-THREATENING - the likelihood is that you will lose your life if you are passive.
  • ·         As a last resort resist with all the strength and skills you have – you would be fighting for your life.
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Press Contact Information
Gushwell F. Brooks
gushwell.brooks@jrs.net
+27 11 618 3404