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Travel Security Advice for Somalia

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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Since the collapse of the central government in 1991, Somalia has been subject to widespread violence and instability.  A Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was established in 2004 to guide the country to a new constitution and elections, now planned for 2011.  However, the nascent TFG remains fragile and lacks the capacity to provide services inside Somalia.  General insecurity and inter- and intra-clan violence frequently occur throughout the country, and attacks and fighting between anti-government elements and TFG and Ethiopian forces take place regularly in Mogadishu and in regions outside the capital.  The United States has no official representation inside Somalia.

In 1991, the northwest part of the country proclaimed itself the Republic of Somaliland and maintains a separate regional governing authority; however, Somaliland has not received international recognition as an independent state.  The northeastern section of Somalia, known as the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, has also made efforts to establish a regional governing authority but has not claimed independence.  Somalia's economy was seriously damaged by the civil war and its aftermath, but the private sector is trying to reemerge.  Tourist facilities are non-existent.  Read the Department of State's Background Notes on Somalia for additional information



REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

There is no U.S. Embassy in Somalia.  U.S. citizens living or traveling in Somalia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

Travelers to Somaliland should register with the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti, and travelers to Puntland or southern Somalia should register with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.

U.S. Embassy Djibouti


Plateau du Serpent, Boulevard Marechal Joffre, Djibouti City
Telephone: (253) 35-39-95
Facsimile: (253) 35-39-40

U.S. Embassy Kenya


United Nations Avenue, Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone: (254) (20) 363-6000
After-hours emergency: (254) (20) 363-6170
Fax: (254) (20) 363-6410



ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS: 

A passport is required for travel to Somaliland and Puntland.  Both regions require a visa and issue their own at their respective ports of entry.  For travel to other parts of Somalia, including Mogadishu, a passport is required; however, there is no established governing authority capable of issuing a universally recognized visa.  Air and seaports are under the control of local authorities that make varying determinations of what is required of travelers who attempt to use these ports of entry.

Travelers may obtain the latest information on visas as well as any additional details regarding entry requirements from the Permanent Representative of the Somali Republic to the United Nations, telephone (212) 688-9410/5046; fax (212) 759-0651, located at 425 East 61st Street, Suite 702, New York, NY  10021.  Persons outside the United States may attempt to contact the nearest Somali embassy or consulate.  All such establishments, where they exist, are affiliated with the TFG, whose authority is not established throughout all of Somalia.

HIV/AIDS restrictions.The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Somalia.

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



SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Since the U.S. does not have an Embassy or any other diplomatic presence in any part of Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland, the U.S. government cannot provide any consular services to U.S. citizens in Somalia.  Limited American Citizen Services are available for travelers to Somalia at the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Djibouti.

While Somaliland has experienced a level of stability that has not been present in other parts of Somalia, please note that the Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against all travel to Somalia, including the self-proclaimed “Independent Republic of Somaliland”  -- see Department’s Travel Warning for Somalia.  Travelers insisting on visiting Somaliland despite this warning should check current conditions in Somaliland before embarking on their journey.  Terrorist attacks have occurred against international relief workers, including Westerners, throughout Somalia, Puntland, and Somaliland.  In 2007, 2008 and 2009, there were several violent kidnappings and eight assassinations, including by suicide bombing, of staff working for international organizations.   Additionally, there have been threats against Westerners in Somalia, including Somaliland. Terrorist operatives and armed groups in Somalia have demonstrated the intent to attack air operations at Mogadishu International Airport.  Additionally, a foreign terrorist organization is ostensibly in control of the southern port city of Kismayo and has openly threatened air traffic out of the local airport.  Armed conflict is commonplace in the capital city of Mogadishu.  All visitors are urged to restrict their movements in the region.  Persons traveling to or through this area should also be aware that incidents such as armed banditry, road assaults, kidnappings for ransom, shootings and grenade attacks on public markets, and detonations of anti-personnel and-vehicle land mines regularly occur.  Sporadic outbreaks of civil unrest persist and armed conflict also occurs in the rest of the country.  Also, illegal roadblocks remain common throughout Somalia and have resulted in serious injury or death.

Cross-border violence occurs periodically.  The area near Somalia’s border with Kenya has been the site of numerous incidents of violent criminal activity, including kidnappings and grenade attacks on hostels used by international aid workers.  U.S. citizens who decide to visit the area should be aware that they could encounter such criminal activity.

U.S. citizens considering seaborne travel around Somalia’s coast should exercise extreme caution, given numerous recent incidents of vessel hijacking and/or piracy off south central Somalia and Puntland.  When transiting in and around the Horn of Africa and/or in the Red Sea, it is strongly recommended that vessels convoy and maintain good communications contact at all times.  Marine channels 13 and 16 VHF-FM are international call-up and emergency channels and are commonly monitored by ships at sea.  2182 MHz is the HF international call-up and emergency channel.  In the Gulf of Aden, transit routes farther offshore reduce, but do not eliminate, the risk of contact with suspected assailants.  Wherever possible, travel in trafficked sea-lanes.  Avoid loitering in or transiting isolated or remote areas.  In the event of an attack, consider activating the “Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB).”  Vessels may also contact the Yemeni Coast Guard 24-hour Operations Center at (967) 1-562-402.  The Operations Center staff speaks English.  Due to distances involved, there may be a considerable delay before assistance arrives.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website,

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. 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 U.S. 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 extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.



CRIME: 

Pervasive and violent crime is an extension of the general state of insecurity in Somalia.  Serious, brutal, and often fatal crimes are very common.  Kidnapping and robbery are a particular problem in Mogadishu and other areas of the south.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.



INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are 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.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.



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.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.

Persons violating Somalia's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Somalia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Water and electricity systems are poor.  Functioning telecommunications systems exist in major towns in Somalia.

There is no organized system of criminal justice in Somalia, nor is there any recognized or established authority to administer a uniform application of due process.  Enforcement of criminal laws is, therefore, haphazard to nonexistent.  Locally established courts operate throughout Somalia under a combination of Somali customary and Islamic Shari'a law, some of which may be hostile towards foreigners.

The Somali shilling is the unit of currency except in Somaliland, which uses the Somaliland shilling.  U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere.  Credit cards are not accepted in Somalia.



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical facilities in Somalia are extremely limited.  Travelers should carry personal supplies of medications with them.

Malaria is endemic in many areas.  There have been outbreaks of cholera in Mogadishu, Kismayo in the south, and Puntland in the northeast.  For additional information on malaria and cholera, including protective measures, see the CDC travelers' health web page at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC website For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.



MEDICAL INSURANCE: 

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.



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.

There are no traffic lights in the country except in Hargeisa, Somaliland.  The poor condition of most roads makes driving hazardous.  Night driving can be dangerous due to the absence of lighting.  Recent occurrences of land mine detonations on roads point to a potentially fatal risk for drivers.

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 Somalia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Somalia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.



CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

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

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Somalia dated November 4, 2008, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Threats to Safety and Security, and Victims of Crime.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding Somalia HERE.......

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

There is also a Malaria Warning provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HERE.....

There is also a Security Warning for Somalia HERE.....

Regards

The SW Team...........

 

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