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Iraq

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Summary

  • Do not travel to Iraq because of the extremely dangerous and volatile security situation and the high threat of terrorist attack. If you're in Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, depart immediately.
  • Political rallies and protests occur in Baghdad and other regions of Iraq and can quickly turn violent. Avoid large public gatherings. If you're caught in an affected area, stay indoors. Follow the advice of local authorities or your security provider. See Safety and security.
  • On 15 May 2019 the US State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency US Government employees from Iraq, both at the US Embassy in Baghdad and the US Consulate in Erbil.
  • Armed groups can conduct large-scale, coordinated attacks against the Government of Iraq and civilians. See Safety and security.
  • There is a very high threat of kidnapping. Information indicates that terrorists may be planning to kidnap expatriate staff working in Iraq, including journalists and humanitarian workers. See Safety and security.
  • Terrorist attacks can happen without warning anywhere, anytime in Iraq.  See Safety and security.
  • Armed opposition groups are active in many parts of Iraq, including in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The situation could deteriorate further with little warning. See Safety and security.
  • Security operations take place frequently and with little warning. See Safety and security.
  • It's an offence for Australians to enter or remain in the Mosul district, Ninewah province (other than solely for a legitimate purpose). You could be prosecuted in Australia. See Laws
  • If you engage in a hostile activity in Iraq, or you enter Iraq with the intention of engaging in a hostile activity, you could be prosecuted in Australia. See Laws
  • Consular services are extremely limited in Iraq.  If you need consular assistance, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305. See Where to get help.
  • If, despite our strong advice, you decide to travel to, or remain in, Iraq, seek professional security advice, adopt effective personal security measures and monitor media and other sources for information on possible new safety and security risks.
  • If you plan to enter Iraq despite our strong advice, you'll need a visa issued in advance by the Government of Iraq. See Entry and exit.

Entry and exit

Do not travel to Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. If you're in Iraq, depart immediately. See Safety and security.

Visas

If you plan to enter Iraq despite our strong advice, you'll need a visa issued in advance by the Government of Iraq.

Australian travellers arriving through Erbil International Airport or Sulaymaniyah International Airport may be entitled to a 30 day visa on arrival. This visa is only valid for travel within the region administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and is not accepted for travel to other areas of Iraq. Visas for travel to the rest of Iraq must be obtained in advance. You may be arrested for immigration offences if you enter Iraq without a valid visa.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact an Embassy or Consulate of Iraq or the Iraqi Ministry of Interior for up-to-date information.

Other formalities

If a child is travelling without a parent, the child's guardian must carry documentation confirming that the parents of the child consent to the travel.

If an Australian/Iraqi dual national child has an Iraqi father, the child may need to provide proof of permission to leave Iraq from the child's father before they will be allowed to depart. 

Laws

Local laws can change without notice. Check legal requirements with an Embassy or Consulate of Iraq before you depart.

Land borders

Avoid travelling to border areas.

Sensitive border areas, particularly with Syria and Turkey, are the target of military operations. Border crossings can close with little or no warning.

Checkpoints

Security checkpoints are present throughout Iraq. Follow the directions of local authorities at security checkpoints and exercise extreme caution. Be aware that false security checkpoints have been used to stage kidnappings, robberies and murders, or to launch attacks.

Passport

Check the expiry date of your Australian passport before you travel. Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for six months from when you plan to leave that country.

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.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate for advice.

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

Money

The local currency is the Iraqi dinar (IQD). Declare all amounts in excess of IQD 100,000 or USD 10,000 (or other foreign currency equivalent) on arrival and departure. US dollars and Euros are the most readily exchanged foreign currencies at local commercial banks and exchange bureau.

Safety and security

Do not travel to Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

The security situation in Iraq is volatile and could deteriorate further with little warning.  If commercial options for leaving Iraq cease to exist, the Australian Government won't be able to facilitate your departure.  

On 15 May 2019 the US State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency US Government employees from Iraq, both at the US Embassy in Baghdad and the US Consulate in Erbil.

Curfews and other security restrictions can change at short notice. 

If, despite our advice, you decide to travel to, or remain in, Iraq:

  • consult a reputable security company and review security arrangements on a regular basis
  • ensure you have appropriate personal security measures in place, including robust contingency plans

  • avoid areas of military activity at all times including border areas

  • follow restrictions imposed by local authorities

  • monitor local developments through media and other information sources for any new or emerging safety and security risks

  • remain vigilant and alert to your surroundings at all times

  • and leave Iraq as soon as possible.

Australian officials adopt enhanced security measures in Iraq.

Terrorism and armed conflict

Armed groups have conducted 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, Ninewah, Salah ah-Din, Diyala and Baghdad. There has also been fighting between armed groups and Peshmerga forces in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Attacks by terrorists occur frequently and without warning. Attacks may target or occur during political events, including international meetings and conferences or political rallies. Significant religious events, including Ramadan, Ashura and Arba'een have been targeted in recent years.  

Despite recent military gains against ISIL by Iraqi security forces supported by international partners, ISIL continues to engage in sporadic hostile activity across Iraq.

Targets for terrorist attacks include Iraqi Security Forces, government offices, checkpoints, police stations and recruiting centres, Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), public transport, markets, mosques, churches, schools, universities, funerals, religious gatherings, foreign embassies and other civilian infrastructure.

In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, terrorist attacks targeted official buildings in Erbil in 2018.

Armed opposition groups are active throughout Iraq. The situation could deteriorate further without warning. In September 2018 the International Zone (IZ) in Baghdad was targeted by rocket attacks.

Iraqi security forces conduct frequent security operations across Iraq with little warning. Coalition forces carry out targeted airstrikes against militants in Iraq.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. More information: Terrorist Threat Worldwide

Kidnapping

Do not travel to Iraq as there is a very high threat of kidnapping. 

Information indicates that terrorists may be planning to kidnap expatriates working in Iraq, particularly journalists and humanitarian workers. Some kidnappings are carried out by criminal gangs that 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 doesn't make payments or concessions to kidnappers. 

More information: Kidnapping  

Civil unrest and political tension

Large violent protests in Baghdad and other cities across Iraq have been taking place since 1 October 2019. Security forces have used tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition against protesters.

Roads in Baghdad, including the main route to the airport, may be closed. Security restrictions, including curfews and interruption to internet and social media services, may occur with little notice.

Political rallies and protests often happen in Baghdad and other regions of Iraq. These grow quickly and can turn violent. Avoid large public gatherings. If you're caught in an affected area, stay indoors. Follow the advice of local authorities or your security provider. Most rallies and protests are held in Tahrir Square or near government buildings.

In September 2018, protests in Basrah turned violent resulting in the deaths of several protesters and injuries to many more.

In April and May 2016, protestors gained access to the International Zone (where the diplomatic missions are located) and demonstrated at the Parliament, Cabinet Office and Prime Minister's office.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a referendum on independence from Iraq on 25 September 2017. This has led to tensions in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and neighbouring areas, including Kirkuk Province.

Avoid demonstrations, political rallies and large gatherings, which may turn violent. Monitor the media and other sources about planned and possible unrest. If you are in an area affected by demonstrations, remain indoors and follow the advice of local authorities or your security provider.

Crime

Violent crime and corruption are common across Iraq. There are frequent kidnappings, murders and robberies. Organised criminal gangs, militia and tribal groups pose significant threats.

If, despite our advice you choose to travel to, or remain in, Iraq:

  • travel with your vehicle's doors locked and windows up at all times
  • carry only what you need - leave other valuables in a secure location
  • secure your accommodation against intruders
  • be alert to your surroundings at all times.

Scams

In the past a number of individuals fraudulently claiming to represent the Australian Government have approached local businesses for tender opportunities. Please advise the Australian Embassy in Baghdad should you or your company be contacted by individuals claiming to represent the Australian Government.

A number of Australian businesses have been contacted by companies claiming to be Iraqi importers, offering to do 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.

More information: Scamwatch (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission)

Local travel

Road travel

Road travel in Iraq is dangerous. Hazards include roadside bombs, attacks against checkpoints, robberies, lack of observation of road rules and poor driving skills. False security checkpoints have been used to stage kidnappings, robberies and murders, or to launch attacks.

Drink driving is illegal. See Laws.

If you need to travel by road, first:

  • seek advice from a reputable security company
  • ensure you have appropriate personal security measures in place
  • have robust contingency plans in place
  • seek local advice on possible routes

More information: Road travel

Air travel

The situation could change at short notice. Confirm flight arrangements well in advance.

Flights to and from Erbil and Sulaymaniyah International Airports have been suspended in the past due to political tensions. Airport closures or flight suspensions may occur with little or no notice.

Aviation safety and security standards may not meet those set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 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.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you in line with our Consular Services Charter. We can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe. They include lengthy jail terms and the death penalty.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

Seek professional advice if you engage in activities that involve local legal matters, such as family law (divorce, child custody and child support). Be aware of your rights and responsibilities.

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

The following activities are illegal in Iraq:

  • drink driving
  • consuming alcohol in public
  • eating or drinking in public between sunrise and sunset during the holy month of Ramadan
  • removing antiques or artefacts from Iraq
  • photographing or filming government buildings, security infrastructure (such as checkpoints and military bases) or embassies
  • filming in a public place without official prior approval - several foreign journalists have been arrested for filming without approval
  • preaching outside a place of worship
  • attempting to convert a Muslim
  • abandoning the Islamic Faith, if you are Muslim
  • sodomy
  • sexual acts which can include homosexual acts – more information: LGBTI travellers

Local laws can change without notice. Confirm legal requirements with an Embassy or Consulate of Iraq before departure.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. You can be prosecuted for them in Australia.

It is an offence for Australians to enter or remain in the Mosul district, Ninewah province (other than solely for a legitimate purpose). The Minister for Foreign Affairs has declared Mosul as an area in which a listed terrorist organisation is engaging in a hostile activity. More information: National Security

Other offences include, but are not limited to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information:

Dual nationals

Iraq recognises dual nationality. If an Australian/Iraqi dual national child has an Iraqi father, they may need to provide proof of his permission to leave the country before they will be allowed to depart.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

Behaviour and dress standards are conservative. Public displays of affection are unacceptable. Take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

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

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan will occur between early May and early June 2019. 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.

More information: Ramadan

Health 

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy covers any pre-existing conditions.

You'll need a special insurance policy for travel to "do not travel" destinations. Check with your insurer to be sure you're covered.

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. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel.

Take enough legal prescription medicine to last for the duration of your stay. Carry copies of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases

A number of insect-borne diseases are common in Iraq. Malaria is widespread in the southern province of Basrah and areas below 1,500 metres in the northern provinces of Dohuk, Erbil, Ninewah, Sulaymaniyah and Ta'mim.

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof
  • avoid insect bites, use insect repellent and wear long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • consider malaria prevention medication
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is common. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Bird flu

The World Health Organization has confirmed cases of avian influenza (bird flu) in Iraq.

More information: Avian influenza

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis and rabies) occur, with more serious outbreaks from time-to-time. 

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Polio

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 prior to departure.

Medical facilities

Health facilities in Iraq's major cities are limited and in remote areas are very basic or unavailable. Stocks of medical equipment and medicines are severely depleted.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive and may be difficult to arrange due to the security situation.

Natural disasters

Iraq is in an active earthquake zone. More information: Earthquakes

Sandstorms and dust storms happen regularly. July to September daytime temperatures normally exceeds 40 degrees Celsius and often rise above 50 degrees Celsius. More information: Severe weather

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Where to get help

Consular services are severely limited in Iraq due to the security situation. The Australian Embassy provides limited consular services by appointment only. Visit the Embassy website for information about making an appointment.

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

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Register your trip with Smartraveller us so we can contact you in an emergency.

Additional information

Mosul Dam

The Government of Iraq has begun to take measures to improve the structural integrity of Mosul Dam. A dam failure would cause significant flooding from Mosul to Baghdad and could interrupt essential services. A failure of the Mosul Dam cannot be predicted.

If you're in Iraq, particularly in areas near the Tigris River, including Baghdad, monitor local media reports and make sure your contingency plan covers evacuation for you and your family. The Australian Government won't be able to facilitate your departure if commercial options aren't available.

If the Mosul Dam fails, secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it at all times (in a waterproof bag) and follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional resources