Kidnap and Ransom scenarios are extremely high risk and rarely straight forward. There is no guarantee that paying a ransom will lead to a safe hostage release. As the families of Paul and Rachel Chandler learned it can spawn more demands for cash, a practice known as ‘double-dipping’. Gut wrenching as that blow must have been, the Chandlers were lucky. Some kidnappers take the money and kill.
I can’t fault any family for doing everything in their power to free their loved ones. But ransom payments do make the world a more dangerous place. Caving to hostage takers encourages them to keep kidnapping and even amplifies the problem by tempting more criminals to the trade. That is why I agree with our government’s policy of not making or facilitating substantive concessions to hostage-takers. Britain wants to shut down kidnappers, not reward them.
In practice though, this stance has made little difference on the ground. Britain’s efforts have been frustrated enormously by countries that do pay for the release of their citizens. In Afghanistan, some nations involved in NATO’s coalition have been happy to pay ransoms for the return of their nationals. As a result, kidnapping is now not only a political act in Afghanistan; it is a booming, for profit enterprise involving Taliban and gangs of organized criminals.
Ransom payments by families and employers of kidnap victims also undermine British government policy. Even in cases where British nationals are seized, Government cannot stop private citizens and firms from digging into their pockets to meet the kidnappers’ demands. Ideally, families and employers of British kidnap victims work hand-in-hand with Government; not parallel to it. The Government has many weapons in its K&R arsenal not available to the private sector such as behind the scenes diplomatic pressure and of course the most powerful—the military option.
Paul and Rachel Chandler endured a horrible ordeal, one that thankfully ended with their safe return home. But as long as kidnapping produces financial returns, you can be sure that many more innocent victims will fall prey to this dreadful money spinner.