Monday, July 29, 2013

Egypt: US Department of State Warns US Citizens to Defer Travel, If in Egypt Depart

COMMENT: As a reminder to US citizens, please note that on July 3, the US Department of State issued an updated travel warning for Egypt which  warns US citizens to defer travel to Egypt and US citizens living in Egypt to depart at this time because of the continuing political and social unrest.

On July 3, 2013, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency US government personnel and family members from Egypt due to the ongoing political and social unrest.  

Political unrest, which intensified prior to the constitutional referendum in December 2012 and the anniversary in 2013 of Egypt's 25th January Revolution, is likely to worsen in the near future due to unrest focused on the first anniversary of the President’s assumption of office. Demonstrations have, on occasion, degenerated into violent clashes between police and protesters, and between protesters supporting different factions, resulting in deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage. Participants have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and security forces have used tear gas and other crowd control measures against demonstrators. There are numerous reports of the use of firearms as well. 

While violent protests have occurred in major metropolitan areas, including downtown Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said, the security situation in most tourist centers, including Luxor, Aswan, and Red Sea resorts such as Sharm el-Sheikh, continues to be calm, albeit unpredictable. Of specific concern is a rise in gender-based violence in and around protest areas where women have been the specific targets of sexual assault. 

On June 28, a US citizen was killed during a demonstration in Alexandria while photographing protesters. THIS IS NOT RECOMMENDED.

 On May 9, a private US citizen was attacked with a knife outside of the US Embassy after being asked whether he was an American.  Additionally, Westerners and US citizens have occasionally been caught in the middle of clashes and demonstrations. US citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security by knowing the locations of police and fire stations, hospitals, and the US Embassy. 

If you wish to depart Egypt, you should make plans and depart as soon as possible. The airport is open and commercial flights are still operating, although cancellations may occur. Travelers should check with their airlines prior to their planned travel to verify the flight schedule. There are no plans for charter flights or other US government-sponsored evacuations. US citizens seeking to depart Egypt are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. 

The US Department of State strongly urges US citizens to avoid all demonstrations in Egypt, as even peaceful ones can quickly become violent, and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse. Because of the proximity of the US Embassy to Tahrir Square in Cairo, the US Embassy has sometimes been closed to the public on short notice due to violent protests. 

The Embassy will notify US citizens as quickly as possible of any closing and the types of emergency consular services that will be available. Should security forces block off the area around the US Embassy during demonstrations, US citizens should contact the American Citizens Services section before attempting to come to the US Embassy during that time. 

US citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to carry identification and, if moving about alone, a cell phone or other means of communication that works in Egypt. 

For the full text of the updated travel warning see:

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_6024