Saint Kitts & Nevis

Saint Kitts (also called Saint Christopher) and Nevis (SKN) is located in the northern part of the Leeward Islands chain in the Caribbean. Saint Kitts has a land area of 176.12 km2 (68 sq. mi.) and Nevis has a land area of 93.2 km2 (36 sq. mi.), making the countryís total land area 261 km2. The islands are separated at their closest points by a three-km channel.

The recorded history of St. Kitts begins with the second voyage in 1493 of Christopher Columbus who sailed past the island but did not land. There is some doubt as to whether he named the island after himself, or after the patron saint of travelers, St. Christopher. From a distance, Columbus thought the island resembled the shape of St. Christopher carrying the Christ child on his shoulder. In any case, by the time the Englishman Thomas Warner arrived with fourteen other settlers in 1624 to found the first non-Spanish European colony in the Caribbean, the island was known as St. Christopher's. It was only later that it was affectionately nicknamed St Kitts.

Saint Kitts became Great Britainís first colony in the West Indies with the founding of a settlement on the island in 1623. Once called the Gibraltar of the West Indies for its domination of 18th century battles, St. Kitts so honors its past with careful restoration that the UN has designated The Brimstone Hill Fortress & National Park a World Heritage Site, and it is a living museum of historical exploration. The country gained its independence in 1983. It is a sovereign democratic state, although the Queen of England remains the titular head of State and is represented in the country by the Governor-General.

Saint Kitts and Nevis is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and cooperates with the other members in areas such as economic policy, defense, international diplomacy, and, in the health sphere, pharmaceutical procurement.

The security forces consist of a police force, which includes a paramilitary Special Services Unit, a drug unit, a Special Victims Unit, the Office of Professional Standards, and a white-collar crimes unit. These forces are responsible for internal security, including migration and border enforcement. In addition there is a coast guard and a small defense force. The governor general may authorize the defense force to patrol jointly with the police for periods of up to six months. The military and the police report to the Ministry of National Security, which is under the prime ministerís jurisdiction. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police, coast guard, and defense force, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no recent reports of impunity involving the security forces.

Crimes, including murder, rape, armed robbery, petty street crime, automobile break-ins and burglary, do occur. Major roads are in average to poor condition, and drivers may encounter wandering animals and slow moving heavy equipment. Pedestrians often walk on the roads and indicators are not always used. Drivers often stop in the middle of the roadway without warning, so drivers should always maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front and watch for signs of sudden braking. Automobiles may lack working safety and signaling devices. There is relatively little police enforcement of traffic regulations. Public transport is available and cheaper. Minibus drivers may drive above the speed limit.

The water is of good quality and suitable for drinking. It is collected from direct precipitation, mountain springs and wells, and is chemically treated for purification. Locally bottled water is also available. Medical facilities in Saint Kitts and Nevis do not meet US standards. The main government hospital can cope with many types of treatment but serious cases may mean emergency evacuation. Medical treatment in St Kitts and Nevis can be expensive.

It is an offence for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing.

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