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Somalia

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Summary

  • Do not to travel to any part of Somalia because of armed conflict, the ongoing very high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping, and dangerous levels of violent crime.
  • If you are in Somalia, leave if it is safe to do so.
  • If, despite our advice, you travel to or remain in Somalia, be aware that the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular services to Australians in Somalia is extremely limited.
  • Following federal elections in early 2017, Al Shabaab declared its intention to target the new administration and has undertaken multiple attacks against government and public targets throughout Somalia. 
  • If you're an Australian-Somali dual national you will be regarded by Somali officials as Somali in the first instance. You may be prevented from contacting the Australian Government if you are arrested or detained.
  • There is an ongoing very high threat of terrorist attack in Somalia. Westerners and those working for western and international organisations have been targeted and killed in terrorist attacks throughout the country, including the capital Mogadishu. See Safety and security.
  • Mogadishu International Airport, where there is a large presence of westerners, remains a high priority target for extremists. On 2 January 2017, Mogadishu's international airport was closed following twin attacks in the capital.
  • There is an ongoing very high threat of kidnapping in all parts of Somalia, including in Somaliland and Puntland. A large number of foreigners (including aid workers, journalists and religious representatives) have been kidnapped in Somalia in recent years.
  • Civil unrest and political tension can prompt demonstrations that may quickly turn violent. Avoid protests, rallies and demonstrations.
  • There is no effective police force in Somalia; lawlessness, violent crime, clan violence, banditry and looting are common.
  • Attacks by pirates against all forms of shipping in and around Somalia's waters, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden remains a serious threat, including at some distance from the coast. Maintain a high level of vigilance and exercise extreme caution when sailing/boating anywhere near the Horn of Africa. More information: Piracy
  • See Travel smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

As visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice, contact the nearest Consulate-General of Somalia for up-to-date information. Be aware that such establishments, where they exist, are affiliated with the central government, whose authority is not established throughout all of Somalia. The Permanent Representative of the Somali Republic to the United Nations is located at 425 East 61st Street, Suite 702, New York, United States, NY10021, telephone (212) 688-9410/5046; fax (212) 759-0651.

A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate may be required for entry into Somalia.

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Safety and security

Al Shabaab declared its intention to target the current administration following federal elections in February 2017.

Terrorism

Do not travel to Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland, because of the very high threat of terrorist attack. If you are in Somalia, leave if it is safe to do so. Somalia is not safe for tourism. If you are in Somalia, have robust personal security measures in place.

Somali militants have publicly threatened, and have the capability, to carry out attacks in all areas of Somalia, including Mogadishu, Puntland and Somaliland. Terrorist attacks occur frequently in Somalia. Further terrorist attacks could take place anywhere at any time.

Mogadishu International Airport, where there is a large presence of Westerners, remains a high priority target for extremists. Do not travel through Somali airspace on aircraft without robust security measures. Terrorists have targeted aircraft and airports.

In recent years, there has been a large number of significant terrorist attacks against the government and public areas throughout Somalia, including Mogadishu. Terrorist attacks are expected to continue. Many recent attacks have targeted Somali Government officials, foreigners and UN workers. Significant recent events include:

  • on 23 February 2018, a suicide car-bombing near the Presidential Palace killed at least 32 people
  • on 14 December 2017, a suicide bomber killed at least 18 police officers at a training centre in Mogadishu
  • on 28 October 2017, Al Shabaab attacked the Nasa-Hablod Hotel near the Presidential Palace in Mogadishu, killing at least 27 people
  • on 14 October 2017, two vehicle bombs exploded in central Mogadishu, killing 358 people and injuring many more
  • on 29 September 2017, Al Shabaab attacked a military base outside of Mogadishu, killing a number of soldiers
  • on 28 September 2017, a car bomb exploded in Mogadishu killing seven people
  • on 11 September 2017, Al Shabaab exploded a suicide car bomb before storming a Somali military base killing an unknown number of Somali soldiers
  • on 3 September 2017, Al Shabaab attacked a military base in Kismayo claiming to have killed 26 Somali soldiers in the process
  • on 1 August 2017, a car bomb exploded in Kismayo killing between 10 to 20 civilians
  • on 30 July 2017, Al Shabaab ambushed a troop convoy claiming to have killed up to 39 African Union troops
  • on 30 July 2017, a bomb was detonated on Maka Almukarramah Street in central Modadishu killing up to seven people.

Attacks, resulting in deaths, have regularly been conducted against Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) targets, including government buildings, to undermine confidence in the Somalian Government. Attacks have also been directed at westerners, those working for western and international organisations, and Africa Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers.

Attacks have involved multiple, consecutive explosions, with car bombs and armed gunmen.

Possible terrorist targets include commercial and public areas known to be frequented by foreigners such as hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars, government and foreign interests, embassies, schools, markets and shopping areas, places of worship, transport and transport infrastructure, including airports and aircraft, foreign oil companies, oil infrastructure and oil fields, residential areas, outdoor recreation events, tourist areas and historic sites. Be particularly vigilant in the lead-up to and during all religious festivals, particularly Ramadan, and days of national significance as militants have used such occasions to mount attacks.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Ongoing very high threat of kidnapping in all parts of Somalia

There is a very high and ongoing threat of kidnapping in all parts of Somalia, including in Puntland and Somaliland. Kidnappers may be motivated by crime or terrorism.

Foreigners, including those of Somali descent, face a continuing very high threat of kidnapping in Somalia. A large number of foreigners have been kidnapped in Somalia in recent years.

Westerners kidnapped from Kenya have been held by armed groups in Somalia.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. If you decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place.

More information: Kidnapping

Civil unrest and political tension

Somalia was without an effective central government after the overthrow of the Said Barre government in 1991. Somalia concluded its transitional governance period and installed a new federal government in September 2012. Somali security forces, with the assistance of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), have liberated Mogadishu and other cities in southern and central Somalia from the control of the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab. However the security situation remains unpredictable across much of the country and the threat of conflict or attacks by armed groups remains high.

Armed conflict is ongoing across south-central Somalia. Residential areas and markets have been subject to shootings and grenade attacks.

Avoid all protests, rallies and demonstrations as they may turn violent.

Drought conditions and delayed rainfall in southern and central Somalia and areas bordering Ethiopia and Kenya have contributed to the unstable security environment. Food shortages are common and, along with military operations, have resulted in the displacement of thousands of people. This has led to an increase in disease and an increased risk of crime.

Crime

There is no effective police force in Somalia. Lawlessness, violent crime, clan violence, banditry and looting are common.

Anti-Western attitudes are strong in some parts of Somalia. This may result in the violent harassment of foreigners, including foreigners of Somali descent.

Due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, if you're a victim of violent crime, including rape, seek immediate medical assistance.

Money and valuables

Australian currency, credit cards and travellers cheques are not accepted in Somalia. ATMs are not generally available in Somalia. US dollars are widely accepted.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible. You can either:

Local travel

Road travel

Road conditions are poor and dangerous. Landmines are a danger throughout Somalia. Illegal roadblocks are common.

More information: Road safety and driving

Piracy

While the number of attacks has declined in recent years, the threat of piracy in waters off the Somali coast remains. Attacks by pirates in and around Somalia's waters, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden are a serious threat, including some distance from the Somali coast. Pirates are likely to be heavily armed.

Vessels are advised to stay more than 1000 nautical miles (1850km) from the coast of the Horn of Africa, although even this distance may not be safe. Vessels should travel in convoy and maintain good communications at all times.

All forms of shipping are attractive targets for Somali pirates, including commercial vessels, pleasure craft and luxury cruise liners. Maintain a high level of vigilance and exercise extreme caution when anywhere near these waters.

More information:

Airline safety

Airports and aircraft are possible targets for terrorists. On 2 February 2016, authorities confirmed an explosion on a commercial flight to Djibouti from Mogadishu was caused by an explosive device brought on to the plane. See Safety and security. Do not travel through Somali airspace on aircraft without robust security measures.

Mogadishu International Airport, where there is a large presence of Westerners, is a high priority target for extremists.

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Somalia.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Somalia, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular services charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Somalia is not a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which means the provision of consular services may be limited. Australians holding Somali citizenship will be regarded as Somali in the first instance and may have difficultly notifying the Australian Government if they are arrested or detained.

Due to the security situation, the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular services to Australians is extremely limited. Australia does not have a diplomatic mission in Somalia.

Criminal justice in Somalia differs significantly from Australia. The enforcement of criminal laws is haphazard, and there is no uniform application of due process.

Courts operate with a combination of Somali customary and Sharia law. Strict Sharia law, including corporal and capital punishment, is in force in those areas under Al-Shabaab control.

Australians who engage in activities that involve local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody and child support), should seek professional advice prior to travel and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Homosexual acts are illegal and penalties may include imprisonment. Sharia law applies in some parts of Somalia, particularly in the south. In these areas, the punishment for homosexual activity can include flogging or the death penalty. More information: LGBTI travellers

Preaching religion other than Islam is illegal in Puntland and Somaliland and strongly discouraged elsewhere.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and may include imprisonment and heavy fines. More information: Carrying or using drugs

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australia has strengthened legislation relating to female genital mutilation and forced marriage to protect Australian residents from being taken overseas for these purposes. The new criminal offences carry significant penalties including imprisonment of up to 25 years.

More information:

The United Nations Security Council has imposed sanctions against Somalia, including an arms embargo. It is illegal under Australian law to provide any support related to military activities to any armed group in Somalia, without authorisation from the Australian Government. This includes engaging in fighting, funding, training or recruiting someone to fight and supplying or funding weapons or military equipment.

Local customs

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur between mid-May and mid-June 2018. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. Avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting.

More information: Ramadan

Standards of dress and behaviour in Somalia are very conservative. Take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Information for dual nationals

If you are an Australian/Somali dual national you will be regarded by Somali officials as Somali in the first instance. You may be prevented from contacting the Australian Government if you are arrested or detained. Our ability to provide consular assistance may be limited.

More information: Dual nationals

Health

Take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. Get vaccinated before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities in Somalia are extremely limited. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation is very difficult to organise and costs are considerable.

Malaria occurs throughout the year in all parts of Somalia. Chloroquine-resistant strains of malaria are reported. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, yellow fever, filariasis and leishmaniasis) also occur. Take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent, wearing long, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof. Consider medication to prevent malaria.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including cholera, hepatitis, meningococcal, measles and tuberculosis) are prevalent, while outbreaks of other diseases (including meningitis, polio, Rift Valley fever and typhoid) occur regularly. Boil drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to water borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

In May 2014 the WHO declared the recent international spread of wild poliovirus a “public health emergency of international concern” and has issued temporary recommendations that may affect travel to Somalia.

If you travel to Somalia, ensure you are up-to-date with routinely recommended vaccinations against polio, including a booster dose, as per the Australian Immunisation Handbook, prior to departure. Carry evidence that you have received a dose of polio vaccine within 12 months prior to departure from Somalia.

More information: Polio (Australian Department of Health)

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Somalia is high. If you're a victim of violent crime, including rape, seek immediate medical assistance. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Where to get help

The Consular services charter explains what the Australian Government can and can't do to assist Australians overseas. The ability of the Australian Government to provide consular services to Australians in Somalia is extremely limited.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Somalia.

You can contact the Australian Government at the Australian High Commission in Kenya for consular assistance.

Australian High Commission, Nairobi

Riverside Drive (400 metres off Chiromo Road)
Nairobi, KENYA
Telephone: +254 20 427 7100
Fax: +254 20 427 7139
Website: kenya.highcommission.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in East Africa
Twitter: @AusHCKenya

See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are unable to contact the High Commission in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Somalia experiences strong variations in climatic conditions, including regular droughts and floods. As a result, many areas of Somalia continue to suffer from food shortages and thousands of people remain displaced. This has led to an increase in disease, an increased risk of crime and higher security threats to foreigners.

The temperature in Somalia is often extremely high. The average maximum temperature can exceed 45˚C during the hottest months.

The monsoon season extends from May to October in the southwest and from December to February in the northeast.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System website for more information.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional resources