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: 19 March 2020, 14:15 NZDT
  • Still current at: 20 September 2020

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On 3 January 2020, an Iranian military commander and Iraqi paramilitary leaders were killed in a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad International Airport.

The security situation in the Middle East region is unpredictable and may become increasingly volatile.

Departing Syria
Airports, roads and land borders in some areas are closed due to the ongoing conflict. Others may be subject to closure with little warning or become inaccessible if the security situation in the vicinity changes. Land borders held by opposition forces continue to be targeted by regime attacks and armed groups seeking to fund themselves through kidnapping for ransom. There are limited options for departure by commercial means, as some airlines have suspended services due to the ongoing conflict and others may cease with little notice. We recommend you seek local advice on the status of access routes to airports and borders before setting out on your journey and contact your airline to check whether there are any flight disruptions or cancellations. 

Remaining in Syria
New Zealanders who choose to remain in Syria against our advice should keep a low profile, be vigilant at all times and avoid all travel inside Syria unless it is to avoid immediate danger.

We strongly recommend you develop a plan for departure, including (if possible) securing a valid exit visa in your passport in advance in case you wish to depart at short notice. The ongoing conflict has seriously affected public infrastructure and services. We recommend stockpiling supplies of food, water, medication and fuel as part of your contingency arrangements as shortages could occur and shops may close without warning. Access to medical treatment is limited and there are shortages of even the most basic medications and medical supplies. Telecommunication services and road access to and within some cities may be disrupted due to security operations. You should monitor developments closely through the media and heed any local advice.

Civil unrest/political tension
The overall security situation in Syria is extremely dangerous. The Syrian military and allied groups are engaged in full-scale conflict with armed opposition groups throughout the country. Violence is increasing and political disorder is continuing. Heavy fighting has been reported in all major cities with aerial bombardment and ongoing full-scale military operations taking place in many parts of the country. Chemical weapons have been used during the conflict and further use of such weapons is possible.

New Zealanders in Syria are advised to avoid all large public gatherings and demonstrations as they have the potential to turn violent with little warning. Syrian authorities have arrested people in the vicinity of demonstrations regardless of citizenship. You should leave any areas where any armed forces are deployed as soon as it is safe to do so. 

There is an extreme threat from terrorism throughout Syria. There are ongoing attacks across the country, including in major cities, which indiscriminately kill and injure civilians. Tactics used include suicide bombers, the use of improvised explosive devices and small and heavy arms. New Zealanders throughout Syria are advised to be highly security conscious at all times, particularly in public places, near places of worship, when travelling by road, near border crossings and close to government offices.

Large parts of the country remain under the control of rebel groups and terrorist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Terrorist groups also continue to have a presence in areas liberated by the regime and Syrian Democratic Forces. In response to ongoing terrorist activity, international coalition forces are conducting targeted airstrikes on a range of targets in Syria. These strikes may continue for some time.

There is a significant and ongoing risk of kidnapping of foreign nationals throughout Syria, including in Damascus and Aleppo. A large number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped. Some kidnappings have been politically or financially motivated and Westerners have been deliberately targeted. A large number of hostages have been killed by their captors. See our Hostage Taking and Kidnapping advice for further information.

The escalating conflict in Syria has led to an increase in crime. Violent crime, including robbery, sexual assault, carjacking and kidnapping is commonplace. We advise exercising extreme caution especially when travelling after dark.

General travel advice
New Zealanders travelling or living in Syria should 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 Syria as exclusions are likely to apply.

New Zealanders who remain in Syria against our advice are urged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Travel tips

See our regional advice for the Middle East

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