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Travel Security Advice for Eritrea

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eritrea_mapEritrea_Overview


 

 

 

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Eritrea is a poor but developing East African country, the capital of which is Asmara. Formerly a province of Ethiopia, Eritrea became an independent country on May 24, 1993, following a 30-year struggle that culminated in an overwhelming referendum vote for independence. Tourism facilities are very limited. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Eritrea for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

All travelers should have a passport and valid visa prior to arrival; visas are not available at the airport unless specifically pre-authorized by the Eritrean government.  Travelers visiting Eritrea using a foreign passport do not need an exit visa, provided they leave before their entrance visa expiration date.  Persons staying beyond their entrance visa expiration date may be subject to fines or imprisonment, or be required to remain in Eritrea for an extended period while their case is reviewed in court.  All long-term residents, regardless of citizenship, must obtain an exit visa 30 days prior to departure, unless they hold a difficult-to-obtain multiple entry visa.  Upon entry and exit, visitors must declare all foreign currency, and may be asked to declare electronic equipment such as cameras, computers and video equipment.  Visitors must save all receipts for foreign exchange and present these upon departure to account for all foreign currency spent in Eritrea.  Failure to report foreign currency or meet customs requirements usually results in both a fine and imprisonment.  There is also a $20 airport departure tax.  Information about the airport tax and entry/exit requirements is available from the Embassy of Eritrea, 1708 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009; telephone (202) 319-1991; fax (202) 319-1304.  Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Eritrean embassy or consulate.

U.S. citizens born in Eritrea, to Eritrean parents, or who in any other way appear to have Eritrean origins, are required to register with the Immigration and Nationality office in Asmara within seven business days of their entry into the country.  The Eritrean government sometimes subjects U.S. citizens of Eritrean heritage to the same entry/exit requirements as Eritrean citizens.  See the “Special Circumstances” section below for more information about dual nationality.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a border war from 1998-2000.  United Nations peacekeepers patrolled the border until March 2008, when Government of Eritrea diesel fuel restrictions resulted in the peacekeepers’ withdrawal.  Both Eritrea and Ethiopia maintain large military presences along the border and currently all border crossings into Ethiopia from Eritrea remain closed.  U.S. citizens are strongly advised to avoid travel near the Eritrean-Ethiopian border and to register their presence in Eritrea with the U.S. Embassy in Asmara.

Since April 2008, large numbers of Eritrean troops have been deployed along the northeastern border of Djibouti.  U.S. citizens are strongly advised to avoid non-essential travel to the Southern Red Sea region of Eritrea, including the port of Assab.

Landmines and unexploded ordnance remain a serious problem throughout the country.  There are reports of accidents and numerous incidents where vehicles and people occasionally detonate mines.  Many detonations occurred on relatively well-traveled roads in and near the Gash Barka region of western Eritrea; subsequent investigations indicated that several mines had been recently laid.  Vast areas of the country still have not been certified free of mines and unexploded ordnance left over from both the 30-year war for independence and the subsequent 1998-2000 conflict with Ethiopia.  Americans should avoid walking alone and hiking in riverbeds or areas that local government officials have not certified as safe.

Although Eritrea and Sudan have diplomatic relations, the procedures for crossing their common border are not clear and subject to change.  Overland travel between the two countries is dangerous and ill advised.  Travelers crossing from Eritrea to Sudan north and west of the Keren-Barentu road risk becoming victims of banditry or Islamic extremist insurgent activity.  Several incidents were reported in 2007, apparently involving insurgents or criminals in this area.  The U.S. Embassy also received reports of sporadic bombings of vehicles and government facilities in the Gash Barka region near Sudan in 2007 and 2008.  If travel near the Eritrean-Sudanese border is essential, travelers should consult both the Eritrean authorities and the U.S. Embassy in advance.  Foreign travelers who wish to visit any area outside of Asmara must apply at least ten days in advance for a travel permit from the Eritrean government.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada , a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:

Although still a safe city by many measures, Asmara reported significant increases of street crime, such as theft, robbery, and assault in 2008.  Travelers should exercise vigilance in their personal security and safety precautions regarding what valuables they carry and which areas they visit.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.  The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical facilities in Eritrea are extremely limited.  Travelers must carry their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventative medicines because pharmaceuticals are in short supply.  Food and water-borne illnesses are very common among travelers, so drink only bottled or purified water and eat foods that are cooked or peeled.  Malaria is a serious risk to travelers in the lowlands of Eritrea, but Asmara is generally considered free of the disease.

There is no HIV testing requirement for temporary or permanent entry into Eritrea.  Please verify this information with the Embassy of Eritrea before you travel.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.  Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Eritrea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

The roads between major cities (Asmara, Massawa, Mendefera, Dekemhare, Barentu, and Keren) are paved and in relatively good condition.  However, secondary roads and those in remote areas are usually unpaved and in poor condition.  U.S. citizens should avoid traveling on these roads, especially at night.  Bad weather can also make the condition of poor roads worse.  If you must take unpaved roads, check first with local government and village officials as new minefields continue to be discovered.

Landmines and unexploded ordnance litter the countryside in many areas, occasionally causing injuries and deaths.  Although the UN conducted de-mining efforts until late 2007, evidence of new mines has been reported, particularly in areas near the Ethiopian border.  All areas that are not well traveled are potentially dangerous due to live mines, especially north and west of Keren.  There are also minefields near Massawa, Ghinda, Agordat, Barentu, south of Tessenae, Nakfa, Adi Keih, Arezza, Dekemhare, and in a roughly 40-kilometer wide region just west of the Eritrean-Ethiopian border between the Setit and Mereb Rivers.

Many Eritreans use inexpensive public transportation, especially bus service.  Travelers should avoid taking buses due to extreme over-crowding.  Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive in Asmara, but usually carry multiple passengers along pre-defined routes.  If an empty taxi is available, a customer may request a "contract" taxi, which accepts no additional passengers, for a significantly higher fixed price.  Drivers should be aware of heavy and erratic pedestrian and bicycle traffic obstructing vehicle flow.  Occasionally horse-drawn carts, cattle, or goats add to the obstacles.  Other hazards are children and the elderly, who sometimes wander into the path of moving traffic, as well as small, slow, motorized carts.  Elderly or disabled people usually drive these carts and do not always yield to faster moving traffic.  When parallel parking on city streets, watch for pedestrians as you back into the space.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

 

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Eritrea, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Eritrea’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s internet website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Due to Eritrean government restrictions impacting Embassy operations, the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Asmara does not provide routine services to American citizens in Eritrea, including reports of birth, passports, and notaries.  Americans traveling or residing in Eritrea who require such services must travel to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside Eritrea, and should plan accordingly.

American citizens should also be aware that U.S. diplomatic personnel are subject to travel restrictions.  The Government of Eritrea requires resident diplomats to apply 10 days in advance for travel outside of Asmara city limits; often travel permission is not given.  This restriction can delay or prevent U.S. Embassy emergency assistance to American citizens outside of Asmara.

The consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Asmara has been closed for visa services since January 2007.

Eritrea has complicated citizenship laws and does not recognize renunciation of Eritrean citizenship.  Dual nationals who enter the country on Eritrean documents are treated as Eritrean citizens, regardless of their other citizenship.  U.S. citizens born in Eritrea, or who otherwise are considered to have acquired Eritrean citizenship, may be subject to certain obligations, including being drafted into national service, regardless of the documents they present at entry.  (National service is approximately six months of military training, followed by an often unspecified number of years in military or other government service.)

U.S.-Eritrean dual nationals who enter the country on an Eritrean passport or national ID card must obtain an exit visa prior to departure.  Exit visa applications can significantly delay travel plans or be denied, even for persons who entered Eritrea legally.  Eritrean dual nationals are also required to pay a 2% income tax on overseas earnings to the Eritrean Government prior to being granted an exit visa.  Additionally, Eritrean authorities sometimes to not allow Eritreans who left the country after 1993 to depart Eritrea after visiting the country, even if they have a U.S. passport and a valid Eritrean visa.

The government of Eritrea does not inform the U.S. Embassy of the detention of American citizens, and does not allow Embassy officials to visit incarcerated Americans.

Visitors are advised to exercise caution when taking photographs in Eritrea.  Foreigners in Asmara have been harassed and detained by local police and plain clothes security officials for taking photographs of street scenes in the city.  No law has been cited, but the arresting officials' justifications have been that (unmarked) government buildings are in the background and/or that the pictures are being taken (illegally) for commercial reasons.

All foreign nationals in Eritrea are required to apply for permits to travel outside of Asmara.  Travel permits must be presented at all checkpoints.  Checkpoints are found on major roads through Eritrea, but locations may change without notice.  Applications for travel permits are available at the Ministry of Tourism located on Harnet Avenue.

There is a high risk of earthquakes in Eritrea.  General information about natural disaster preparedness is available on the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.  Please see our information on Customs Regulations.

Please see our Customs Information.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Eritrean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Eritrea are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

Americans living or traveling in Eritrea are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Eritrea.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.  The U.S. Embassy is located at 179 Alaa Street, PO Box 211, Asmara; telephone (291-1) 12-00-04; fax (291-1) 124-255 and (291-1) 127-584; the Embassy’s web site is located at http://eritrea.usembassy.gov/.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Eritrea dated April 28, 2008, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime,   Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Special Circumstances.

 


 

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to Eritrea HERE....

Be advised there is a Travel Warning for eritrea, you can access it via the Security Website HERE....

There is also a Malaria Warning for eritrea HERE......

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).........

Regards

The SW Team....

 

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