Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Libya: US Department of State Urges US Citizens to Defer Travel, If In Libya, Depart As Soon As Possible

The US Department of State warns its citizens against all travel to Libya and recommends that US citizens currently in Libya depart immediately.   

Due to security concerns, the Department of State has limited staffing at Embassy Tripoli and is only able to offer very limited emergency services to US citizens in Libya.

The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable and unstable. The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution.  

Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation.  

Crime levels remain high in many parts of the country.  In addition to the threat of crime, various groups have called for attacks against U.Scitizens and US interests in Libya.  

Extremist groups in Libya have made several specific threats this year against US government officials, citizens, and interests in Libya.  Because of the presumption that foreigners, especially US citizens, in Libya may be associated with the US government or US-connected NGOs, travelers should be aware that they may be targeted for kidnapping, violent attacks, or death. US citizens currently in Libya should exercise extreme caution and depart immediately. 

Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country and attacks by armed groups can occur in many different areas; hotels frequented by westerners have been caught in the crossfire.  Checkpoints controlled by militias are common outside of Tripoli, and at times inside the capital.  Closures or threats of closures of international airports occur regularly, whether for maintenance, labor, or security-related incidents.

The status of the country’s interim government and the General National Congress both remain uncertain.  Heavy clashes between rival factions erupted in May 2014 in Benghazi and other eastern cities.  In Tripoli, armed groups attacked the General National Congress (GNC) May 18 as part of a campaign to influence and intimidate institutions of government.  

Heavy fighting flared for a day, resulting in deaths and injuries, followed by tense posturing between rival militia groups.  This posturing has the potential to continue and reignite fighting at any time.  State security institutions lack basic capabilities to prevent conflict.  As a result, the potential for political violence continues, centered around specific events, including elections for a new General National Congress and appointment of a new government, both anticipated for as early as June. 

US citizens should avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations, as even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. US citizens traveling to or remaining in Libya, despite this Travel Warning, should use caution and limit nonessential travel within the country, make their own contingency emergency plans, and maintain security awareness at all times.

We strongly recommend that US citizens traveling to or residing in Libya enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates and makes it easier for the US Embassy to contact you in an emergency.  If you don't have internet access, enroll directly with the nearest US Embassy or consulate.

The Embassy’s website includes consular information and the most recent messages for US citizens in Libya.  US citizens in need of emergency assistance should call 091-220-5203 within Libya or 218-91-220-5203 if dialing from outside of Libya.

For information on “What the Department of State Can and Can't Do in a Crisis,” please visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Emergencies and Crisis link.  Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the US and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 0800-2000 hours EST, Monday through Friday (except US federal holidays).

For further information, US citizens should consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.  Stay up-to-date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

For the complete text of the above travel warning see:

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/libya-travel-warning