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Summary

  • Do not travel to Iraq because of the extremely volatile and dangerous security situation. If you are in Iraq, including in the Kurdish region, depart immediately.

  • If you decide to remain in Iraq, in spite of our strong advice, take appropriate security precautions.

  • The Government of Iraq has suspended international flights to and from Erbil and Sulaimaniyah Airports since 29 September 2017. International travellers will need to transit through alternative airports to leave Iraq.

  • You must have a visa issued by the Government of Iraq before you travel, even if you intend to travel to the Kurdish region only (see visas).

  • The Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) 25 September referendum on independence from Iraq has led to increased tensions in the area. Maintain a high level of security awareness and monitor the media for information on latest developments.

  • Armed opposition groups are active in many parts of Iraq, including in the Kurdish region. The situation could deteriorate further with little warning. The US-led coalition, including Australia, continues to conduct targeted airstrikes against militants in Iraq.

  • With the current conflict, there is an increased threat to foreigners throughout Iraq, particularly journalists and humanitarian workers.

  • Due to the challenging security environment, the embassy’s ability to provide consular assistance to Australians is extremely limited. Consular services are offered by appointment only. See Where to get help. Should you require consular assistance and have trouble contacting the Embassy consular phone number, call +61 2 6261 3305.

  • Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) remains operational. However, airport operations can and do change at very short notice. A number of carriers have suspended flights into BIAP. Some airlines have also suspended operations out of Erbil. Confirm your flight arrangements in advance.

  • It is an offence for Australians to enter or remain in the Iraqi district of Mosul (other than solely for a legitimate purpose) which has been declared by the Minister for Foreign Affairs as an area in which a listed terrorist organisation is engaging in a hostile activity. Further information on the declaration of Mosul district and its implications for Australians considering travel to Iraq can be found on the Australian National Security website. 

  • Australians risk prosecution under Australian law if they engage in a hostile activity in a foreign country, or enter a foreign country with the intention of engaging in a hostile activity.

  • While efforts are underway to repair Mosul Dam, there could be limited warning in the event the dam fails, and it would not be possible for the Australian Government to evacuate Australians in the affected area.

  • Given the extremely dangerous security situation, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us so we can contact you in an emergency.

Entry and exit

Do not travel to Iraq, including the Kurdish region. If you are in Iraq depart immediately.

International airports: The Government of Iraq has suspended international flights to and from the Erbil and Sulaimaniyah Airports since 29 September 2017. Domestic flights out of Erbil and Sulaimaniyah are not affected at this stage. Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) remains operational. However, airport operations can and do change at very short notice. Confirm flight arrangements in advance.

Land borders: Border crossings can close with little or no warning. Border crossings in areas under terrorist control or threat of attack are reported to be closed. Sensitive border areas, particularly with Syria and Turkey, are the target of military operations.

Visas: Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Australians need to obtain a visa issued by the Government of Iraq before entering Iraq – including the Kurdish region. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Iraq for up-to-date information on visa requirements.

All foreign nationals who are in the Kurdish region without a valid Iraqi visa but with a Kurdish visa or residency permit are permitted to leave Iraq through BIAP and will need to pay an exit fine. For up-to-date guidance, contact the Embassy or Consulate of Iraq or the Iraqi Ministry of Interior.

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia. Carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Travelling with children: Iraqi authorities have indicated that generally, children travelling to or from Iraq must be accompanied by one or both parents. Should a child be travelling without a parent, the child's guardian must carry documentation confirming that the parents of the child consent to the travel. As local laws can change without notice, parents of children who are planning travel for their children to or from Iraq with a guardian should confirm legal requirements with their nearest Embassy or Consulate of Iraq before departure.

Safety and security

Do not travel to Iraq, including the Kurdish region. If you are in Iraq, depart immediately. 

The KRG held a referendum on independence from Iraq on 25 September 2017. This has led to tensions in the Kurdish region and neighbouring areas, including Kirkuk Province. Monitor the media for information on the latest developments.

Political rallies and protests occur regularly in Baghdad and large crowds can amass in a short space of time. Most are held in Tahrir Square, outside checkpoints in the International Zone, or in the vicinity of government buildings. In April and May 2016, protestors gained access to the International Zone (where the Embassy is located) and demonstrations occurred at the Parliament, Cabinet Office and Prime Minister's office. While protestors left the International Zone, further demonstrations may occur.

  • Avoid all protests and rallies as they can turn violent with little notice.
  • Monitor the news and other sources for information on planned and possible unrest or strikes.

Due to access restrictions to the International Zone which can change at short notice, the Embassy can only provide limited consular assistance. Should you require consular assistance and have trouble contacting the Embassy consular phone number, call +61 2 6261 3305.

With the ongoing conflict, the security situation is volatile and could deteriorate further with little warning. Armed groups continue to conduct large-scale, coordinated attacks against the Government of Iraq and civilians. These groups have killed and injured thousands of people in many parts of Iraq, particularly the provinces of Anbar, Ninewa, Salah ah-Din, Diyala and Baghdad. There has also been fighting between armed groups and Peshmerga forces in the Kurdish region. The US-led coalition, including Australia, continues to conduct targeted airstrikes against militants in Iraq.

Attacks by terrorists occur frequently and without warning. While they continue to target prominent Iraqi political figures, government facilities and security installations, public areas and religious events are also indiscriminately targeted without regard for civilian casualties. Attacks may target or occur during political events, including international meetings and conferences or political rallies.

As ISIL is pushed out of its remaining pockets in Iraq, it is increasingly conducting urban terrorist-style attacks across Baghdad. Many attacks have targeted crowded markets and security check-points. There are ongoing attacks against Iraqi Security Forces, particularly check-points, police stations and recruiting centres. Terrorists have also targeted public transport, markets, mosques, churches, schools, universities, funerals, religious gatherings, foreign embassies and other civilian infrastructure. ISIL has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on markets and hospitals in Baghdad, as well as a security checkpoint in Najaf.

Critical infrastructure, including Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), continues to be a target. There have been several attacks on BIAP (see Entry and exit).

There have been recent attacks by terrorists targeting official buildings in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah in the Kurdish region, and threats against hotels in Erbil.

Terrorists have mounted attacks during significant religious events, including Ramadan, Ashura and Arba'een. There has been a number of recent mass casualty attacks on sites and ceremonies associated with religious pilgrimages.

Security restrictions, including curfews, may change at short notice. Monitor the media and local information sources for information about any changes to local curfews.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin

Kidnapping: There is a very high threat of kidnapping in Iraq. There is an increased threat to foreigners throughout Iraq, including to journalists and humanitarian workers. Australians living and or working in Iraq are at risk of being kidnapped. Some kidnappings are carried out by criminal gangs which demand large ransoms for the release of hostages. A significant number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped and murdered.

The Australian Government’s longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying ransoms increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do 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. See our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

Advice to Australian officials: Australian officials adopt enhanced security measures in Iraq.

Crime

Violent crime and corruption are prevalent across Iraq, with kidnapping, murder and robbery commonplace. Organised criminal gangs, militia, tribal groups and elements of the Iraqi Security Forces pose significant threats.

A number of fraudulent websites and Facebook accounts are claiming to represent the Australian Government in Iraq. Please advise the Australian Embassy in Baghdad should you or your company be contacted by these fraudulent sites.

A number of Australian businesses have been contacted by companies claiming to be Iraqi importers, offering to transact business in unusual or suspicious ways. Individuals may have knowledge of the industry and the target company and may appear legitimate. Seek legal advice if you or your company is asked to participate in such activities.

Australian companies have also been contacted by individuals claiming to represent the Government of Iraq, seeking payments associated with recently won contracts. Seek advice from the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Canberra before making any payments. For further information on scams and how to reduce your risk of falling victim to fraudsters, visit the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's SCAMwatch website.

Money and valuables

Your passport is a valuable document that is 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 travel in Iraq is dangerous. Roadside bombs, attacks against checkpoints, robberies, lack of observation of road rules and poor driving skills create particular hazards. False security checkpoints have been used to stage kidnaps, robberies and murders, or to launch attacks.

Air safety

Aviation safety and security standards may not be equal to standards in Australia, or meet those set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

On 26 January 2015, shots were fired at a commercial flight on its approach into Baghdad. As a result, a number of carriers have suspended flights into BIAP. The situation could change at very short notice. Confirm flight arrangements well in advance.

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 Iraq.

Refer to our general Air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

Declaration of Mosul district: It is an offence for Australians to enter or remain in the Iraqi district of Mosul (other than solely for a legitimate purpose), which has been declared by the Minister for Foreign Affairs as an area in which a listed terrorist organisation is engaging in a hostile activity. Further information on the declaration of Mosul district and its implications for Australians considering travel to Iraq can be found on the Australian National Security website.

Australians risk prosecution under Australian law if they engage in a hostile activity in a foreign country, or enter a foreign country with the intention of engaging in a hostile activity.

Be aware that local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you, but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Due to the challenging security environment, the Embassy’s ability to provide consular assistance is very limited.

Australians who engage in activities that involve local legal matters, including those related to family law (divorce, child custody and child support), should seek professional advice and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities. See also Information for Dual Nationals below.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy jail terms. See our Drugs page.

Drink driving is illegal. Penalties include confiscation of driving licences, fines and jail sentences.

Alcohol should not be consumed in public.

The death penalty can be imposed for murder, treason and terrorism-related offences.

It's illegal to photograph or film government buildings, security infrastructure (such as checkpoints and military bases) and embassies. Harsh penalties apply, including to journalists. Journalists should be aware that official approval is required before filming in public places. A number of foreign journalists have been arrested for filming without approval.

Iraqi police may arrest anyone who eats or drinks in public between sunrise and sunset during the holy month of Ramadan.

Homosexuality is considered taboo in Iraqi society. People suspected of engaging in homosexual acts may be charged with lewd conduct. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Sodomy is illegal in Iraq.

Preaching is only permitted in places of worship. It is illegal to attempt to convert a Muslim. Abandoning the Islamic faith is an offence for Muslims.

The removal of antiques and artefacts from Iraq is illegal.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, 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 forced marriage, to protect Australian residents from being taken overseas for this purpose. This new criminal offence carries significant penalties ranging up to 25 years imprisonment. For more information about this crime please refer to the Forced marriage page.

Local customs

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Iraq. Take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur between mid-May and mid-June 2018. During Ramadan, 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. For more information see our Ramadan bulletin.

Public displays of affection between men and women are unacceptable in Iraqi society.

Hotels may refuse accommodation to couples who cannot provide proof of marriage.

Information for dual nationals

Australian/Iraqi dual national children with Iraqi fathers who are departing Iraq may be required to provide proof of permission from their father to leave the country.

See our Dual nationals page

Health

Before you depart, take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. 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. You are likely to require a specialised insurance policy for travel to "do not travel" destinations. Some travel insurance policies may not cover you for "do not travel" destinations.

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.

Health facilities in Iraq's major cities are limited and in remote areas are very basic or unavailable. Medical equipment and medicines have been severely depleted. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Costs would be considerable.

Insect-borne diseases (such as leishmaniasis and sand fly fever) are common in Iraq. Malaria is prevalent in the southern province of Basrah and areas below 1500 metres in the northern provinces of Dahuk, Erbil, Ninewa, Sulaymaniyah and Ta'mim. Take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent and wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing. Consider taking prophylaxis against malaria where necessary.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis and rabies) are prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. Boil drinking water or drink boiled water and avoid raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed human cases of avian influenza in Iraq. See our health page for further information on influenza.

Iraq is no longer infected with wild poliovirus, but is still vulnerable to the international spread of the disease. Stay up to date with routinely recommended vaccinations against polio, including a booster dose, as per the Australian Immunisation Handbook prior to departure.

Where to get help

The Australian Government will not be able to facilitate your departure should commercial options cease.

If you need urgent consular advice, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

The Australian Embassy is located within the International Zone, Baghdad. Due to access constraints and the challenging security environment, the Embassy's ability to provide consular services is extremely limited. Consular services are offered by appointment only.

Due to the security environment, register your presence in Iraq with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Additional information

Mosul Dam

The Government of Iraq has begun to take measures to improve the structural integrity of Mosul Dam. It is currently impossible to predict if or when a dam failure might occur. A dam failure could cause significant flooding and interruption of essential services. As there is likely to be limited warning in the event of a failure of Mosul Dam, it will be logistically impossible for the Australian Government to evacuate Australians in the affected area. If you are in Iraq, particularly in areas near the Tigris River, including Baghdad, ensure your contingency plan covers the need for you and your family to evacuate ahead of any rising waters. The Australian Government will be unable to facilitate your departure should commercial options be unavailable.

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Iraq is in an active earthquake zone.

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.

Sandstorms and dust storms occur regularly.

Daytime temperatures in Iraq can be extreme. July to September daytime temperatures normally exceeds 40 degrees Celsius and often rise above 50 degrees Celsius.

Additional Resources