Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

ALERT - COVID-19 - Do not travel overseas at this time. Due to the difficulty travellers are experiencing returning home, New Zealanders overseas need to take steps to stay safely where they are and shelter in place....Read more

ALERT - COVID-19 - Do not travel overseas at this time. Due to the difficulty travellers are experiencing returning home, New Zealanders overseas need to take steps to stay safely where they are and shelter in place....Read more

  • Reviewed: 1 April 2020, 14:05 NZDT
  • Still current at: 7 July 2020

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Due to the increasing suspension of airlinks and unprecedented operational pressures, New Zealand has temporarily withdrawn staff from its Embassy in Iraq. Consular services in country are unavailable until further notice.

New Zealanders who require emergency consular assistance should contact the 24/7 Consular emergency line on 0800 30 10 30 (within New Zealand) or +64 99 20 20 20 (outside of New Zealand) or email cons@mfat.govt.nz.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
There have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Iraq.

Local authorities in countries and territories with confirmed cases of COVID-19 may impose containment measures including travel restrictions and quarantine requirements to prevent the spread of the virus.

Such measures may be imposed at short notice and specific details may change rapidly, including where and to whom they apply to and for how long. All travellers should stay informed of measures being taken by authorities in the areas they are travelling to. We recommend that all travellers consult the official website or the nearest embassy or consulate of your country or territory of destination to find out about any border controls and other measures that may apply to you.

For information on countries and territories which have COVID-19 related border restrictions affecting foreign nationals, including travellers in transit, please check the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website before you travel.  IATA provides a comprehensive list of all countries and territories that have imposed COVID-19 related border restrictions and is being continually updated.

As part of its response to managing the COVID-19 outbreak, the New Zealand Government has some temporary travel restrictions in place in New Zealand. Please refer to the New Zealand Ministry of Health website for up to date information.

For further travel advice and information about COVID-19, please see our webpage here. We encourage all New Zealanders living and travelling overseas to register with us.

Regional Tensions
On 3 January 2020, a US airstrike near the Baghdad International Airport killed an Iranian military commander and Iraqi paramilitary leaders. On 8 January, Iran fired missiles against two military bases in Iraq containing U.S personnel. The security situation in Iraq could deteriorate further with little or no warning.

Security Situation
The security situation in Iraq remains highly volatile. The terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant remains active in parts of the country, as do other violent extremist groups engaged in sectarian, ethnic and tribal violence and organised crime. Political instability, crime and corruption, and civil unrest are also common in Iraq.

Terrorism
There is a continuing threat of violent attacks across Iraq from terrorist groups as well as militias and criminal gangs.

Attacks can occur without warning at anytime, anywhere in Iraq. Terrorists, violent extremists and both pro and anti-government militias continue to conduct frequent and lethal attacks on a wide range of targets in Iraq.

Targets include Iraqi Security Forces, government offices, large public gatherings and residential areas to maximise casualties.

Suicide bomb attacks, roadside bombs, car bombs, rocket attacks and small arms attacks occur frequently. Thousands of people have been killed and injured in these attacks throughout Iraq.

Erbil and Sulaymaniyah have been less affected by terrorism and violence than other parts of Iraq. However, terrorist groups remain active close to Kurdish region and the security situation in the region could deteriorate quickly.

Kurdistan region
The relationship between Iraq’s federal government in Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government in Erbil can be extremely volatile at times.

On 25 September 2017 Kurds voted in support of an independence referendum proposed by the regional government. The Government of Iraq does not recognise the results of the referendum.

The Kurdish regional remains vulnerable to regional instability and internal conflicts due to unresolved political tensions.

Crime
Violent crime and corruption are widespread throughout Iraq. Organised criminal groups pose a significant threat.

Kidnapping for ransom and hostage taking by extremists and militant groups for political gain or ransom is a significant problem throughout Iraq.

Over the past decade a large number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Iraq, including aid workers, security contractors, journalists and soldiers.  Many hostages have been killed or remain missing.

Civil Unrest
Political rallies and protests happen frequently in Baghdad and Basra and to a lesser extent Erbil. They can turn violent quickly and have led to injury and death. Political rallies and protests also present viable targets for terrorists. If you are in an area affected by civil unrest or violence, we recommend you keep a low profile, find a safe location, remain indoors and follow any local advice.

Security Forces
Iraqi Security Forces and international coalition forces are are engaged in an ongoing terrorist counter insurgency across central and northern Iraq. They also have a strong presence across the rest of Iraq.

Security restrictions like curfews and vehicle bans can be imposed at short notice.

Security checkpoints are common place and often ad hoc, however false checkpoints have also been used to launch attacks, kidnapping, robbery and murder.

Iraq has a large number of diverse security forces. They do not all enjoy cooperative relationships with one and other.

Turkish and Iranian security forces have also been known to conduct military incursions targeting terrorist or militia groups across Iraq’s northern borders.

Local travel
Travel across Iraq can be extremely dangerous and there continue to be fatal attacks involving roadside bombs and small arms fire.

There is also an ongoing threat from armed carjacking and robbery. Attacks happen during the day, but travelling at night is more dangerous.

As a result of political instability flights to and from Erbil and Sulimaniyah International Airports have been suspended from time to time in the past and the airport could close at short notice.

Domestic and international border crossings may close with little or no notice.

General Travel Advice
Given the New Zealand diplomatic presence in Iraq is small and the constraints placed on it by the security situation in Iraq, the ability of the government to assist New Zealand citizens requiring consular assistance is severely limited. We offer advice to New Zealanders about contingency planning that travellers to Iraq should consider.

New Zealanders who decide to travel to Iraq are strongly encouraged to: 

  • Consult a reputable security company (with experience in Iraq) for advice on security arrangements. Security arrangements should be reviewed on a regular basis. Such measures may mitigate the risks to your safety but cannot eliminate them entirely.
  • Ensure that appropriate personal security protection measures are in place at all times including a robust contingency plan. The New Zealand government will not be arranging an evacuation for New Zealand citizens, should commercial options for departure cease.
  • Avoid areas of military activity at all times including border areas, as these areas are dangerous, often the target of military operations and not always clearly defined.
  • Have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place that includes provision for medical evacuation by air. You should check that your travel insurance policy covers travel in Iraq – exclusions may well apply.
  • Be highly security conscious at all times, particularly in public places when travelling by road and close to government offices.
  • New Zealanders are advised to respect religious and social traditions in Iraq to avoid offending local sensitivities. 
  • Follow restrictions imposed by the local authorities and seek local advice on any changes to curfews. Exercise particular caution at checkpoints a uniform is not a guarantee that the wearer is acting in an official capacity.
  • Monitor local developments closely through media and other information sources on possible new safety and security risks. Follow instructions from local authorities. Remain vigilant and alert to your surroundings.

New Zealanders who decide to live or travel in Iraq against our advice are strongly advised to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Travel tips


New Zealand Embassy Baghdad, Iraq

Street Address The New Zealand Embassy Baghdad is located in the International Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. Access to the Embassy and the Embassy’s ability to provide consular services is limited by the security environment. Telephone +964(0)780 578 9546 Email NewZealandEmbassyIraq@mfat.govt.nz Note Notarial Services: By appointment only

See our regional advice for the Middle East

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