Australians risk holiday horror
- 91,000 Aussies visit ‘most dangerous destinations’ in the past year
- Warning: unlikely to be covered with travel insurance
- What travellers need to know if heading to these high risk zones
MAY 10, 2014, SYDNEY – An investigation by one of Australia’s biggest comparison websites finder.com.au has revealed a concerning trend for more Australians travelling to the most dangerous countries in the world, despite warnings by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
Travel by Australians to North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan has more than doubled (142 percent) over the past decade according to the latest Overseas Arrivals and Departures figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released this week (Thursday May 8, 2014), analysed by finder.com.au. This is despite all 12 countries on DFAT’s Do Not Travel list located in these regions.
In the year to March 2014, there were a total of 91,000 Australians who visited these dangerous regions on a short-term basis, compared with 37,600 in the 12 months to March 2004 (original figures).
|Africa||Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Mali, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan|
|Middle East||Iraq, Syria, Yemen|
Source: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, ranked alphabetically by region
Michelle Hutchison, Money Expert at finder.com.au, said many insurance providers wouldn’t cover you to visit these places, including stopovers.
“While you may be able to find a travel insurance policy to take with you when visiting one of the listed 12 countries, you're unlikely to be successful if you make a claim.
“Most policies state that if the claim is directly or indirectly caused from travelling to these countries with a DFAT warning, then you won't be covered.
“Even if you lose your luggage, change your flight or have an accident that is either directly or indirectly caused from travelling to countries that have been issued a ‘do not travel’ warning by DFAT, you aren’t likely to be able to claim anything.
“The only loophole to this might be for workers travelling to these countries for business reasons. In these instances, Worker's Compensation may cover you, so long as you have a permit from their employer to travel to those destinations.”
Mrs Hutchison said there is a level of danger when travelling in any country including Australia and warned travellers not to be naive about the risks.
“Whether you’re travelling to what is deemed as a safe country or the most dangerous country in the world, it’s important to be prepared and street smart, to keep yourself as safe as possible.”
finder.com.au’s tips for travelling to high risk areas:
- Register your travel plans with smartraveller.gov.au
- Each travel insurance provider has an emergency assistance contact number so if you do take out a policy you can call them while you're there to find out what you can claim – it’s also wise to find out before you buy the policy.
- If you risk travelling to these countries with no travel insurance policy, it’s a good idea to find out if there are any local insurers that will cover you while you’re there.
More information on the 12 most dangerous countries for Australians to visit:
Australians strongly advised not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation and the very high threat of terrorist attack. Serious terrorist incidents, including suicide bombings and other bomb attacks, occur regularly in Afghanistan. Specific methods of attack are evolving and increasing in sophistication. There have been a number of attacks on hotels and housing compounds used by Westerners, embassies, government buildings and NATO bases, facilities of international humanitarian groups and an increase in insider attacks and incidents. Further such attacks are highly likely. Ongoing reports that militants are planning to kidnap Westerners throughout Afghanistan, including in Kabul and surrounding districts. Unexploded landmines and other ordnance remain a danger throughout Afghanistan.
Central African Republic
Latest advice indicates a highly unstable security situation, activities of armed rebels and high levels of serious crime. Serious violence and looting occurred following the overthrow of the Government of the Central African Republic in March 2013 and there have been ongoing clashes between armed groups. A curfew is in place in Bangui and restrictions on movement may be imposed in other parts of the country without warning.
Avoid Chad at this time due to risk of violence, kidnapping and high levels of serious crime and lawlessness. There is a risk of retaliatory attacks against government and Western targets in Chad following the French intervention in the conflict in Mali in January 2013. Police can carry out random checks of documentation - failure to present identification may result in being detained. There are minefields along the borders with Libya, Sudan and Central African Republic and a high risk of violence in these areas. Borders may be closed with little or no warning.
Australians warned not to travel to Iraq (with the exception of Iraqi Kurdistan) because of the extremely dangerous security situation, very high threat of terrorist attack and very high threat of kidnapping. In 2012 and 2013 insurgent activity has increased considerably with a number of large-scale coordinated attacks against the Government of Iraq and civilians killing and injuring thousands of people in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. These attacks have included the indiscriminate targeting of public areas. Terrorists continue to target Iraqi political figures, government facilities security installations and civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners. Attacks may target, or occur during, other political events, including international meetings and conferences or political rallies. Rocket and mortar attacks can occur without warning. Australians could be caught up in such attacks. Foreigners continue to be at risk of being kidnapped or murdered. Travellers should be aware that there are a range of factors that can affect the safety of aircraft and airlines. Aviation safety and security standards may not be equal to standards in Australia.
Acts of terrorism in Libya are frequent and focus on Libyan government and Western interests. Acts of terrorism occur throughout Libya, most notably in the region around Benghazi, but also in the southern desert regions and Tripoli. On 5 December 2013, a US citizen working as a teacher was murdered in Benghazi. Attacks against Western interests have increased in recent months. Violence continues with sporadic clashes between rival armed militias across Libya. Well-armed militias remain unchecked in many parts of Libya, and serious security incidents are frequent.
Do not travel warning in place because of the unpredictable political and security situation, ongoing armed conflict with rebel groups in northern Mali, the activities of armed groups (including terrorists and bandits), and the threat of kidnapping. On 21 March 2012, elements of the Malian military staged a coup. Following the coup, rebel groups took control of the northern provinces of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu as well as parts of Mopti. While major northern cities have been liberated from rebel control, there continues to be fighting in northern Mali between armed groups and the Malian army and international forces, including attacks on northern towns and cities. Despite the election of a new president in August 2013, the political and security situation remains unpredictable and could deteriorate with little warning. The risk of armed banditry and kidnapping is high. Armed extremist groups are active across Mali. Following French military intervention in Mali, there is a possibility of retaliatory attacks targeting Western interests in the region.
It is strongly advised not to travel outside of the capital, Niamey, because of the very high threat of kidnapping, the unpredictable political and security situation, the risk of armed banditry and clashes between Niger’s security forces and armed groups. On 25 September 2012, the US Embassy in Niamey warned its citizens of kidnapping threats against Westerners in the Ingal area of northern Niger. Following unspecified security threats local authorities have increased security for foreigners in the Maradi region of southern Niger, bordering Nigeria. If you do decide to travel outside Niamey, you should travel in daylight, in convoy and with a local guide. Foreigners have been kidnapped from their vehicles in the past. Hostages have been killed. On 8 January 2011, two French nationals were kidnapped in Niamey and were later killed near the border with Mali. Cultural festivals held in north and west Africa are attractive places for terrorists and criminals to identify and target tourists.
Armed conflict and dangerous levels of violent crime are the main reasons to steer clear of Somalia. There is also the ongoing very high threat of terrorist attack. Westerners and those working for Western and international organisations have been targeted and killed in terrorist attacks throughout the country, including the capital Mogadishu. A large number of foreigners (including aid workers, journalists and religious representatives) have been kidnapped in Somalia in recent years. A number remain in captivity. Westerners kidnapped from Kenya have also been held by armed groups in Somalia. Civil unrest and political tension can prompt demonstrations that may quickly turn violent. There is no effective police force in Somalia; lawlessness, violent crime, 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.
The security situation in South Sudan is exceptionally volatile. Australians are strongly advised not to travel to South Sudan because of the risk of armed conflict, and high level of violent crime. There are reports that hundreds of people have been killed in violent clashes in South Sudan since 15 December. The security situation is particularly unstable and may deteriorate further with little warning. There is a dusk to dawn (1800hrs – 0600hrs) curfew in Juba. There have been attacks between rival tribal groups throughout South Sudan, especially in, but not limited to, Jonglei state. This violence has not targeted foreigners but travellers could get caught up in fighting. Conflict can escalate and curfews can be imposed with little or no warning. Roadblocks and checkpoints (official and unofficial) are common. Landmines have been laid in rural areas in many parts of the country.
There is a risk of retaliatory attacks against Western targets in Sudan following the French intervention in the conflict in Mali in January 2013. There is a high threat of kidnapping throughout Sudan. Violent clashes between rebel groups and the military continue. Travellers should be aware that the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular services to Australians in Sudan is limited.
Australians should not to travel to Syria because of the extremely dangerous security situation, highlighted by ongoing military conflict, kidnappings and terrorist attacks. The Australian Government has recommended, since April 2011, that Australians in Syria depart immediately by commercial means while it is possible to do so. An outbreak of polio has been reported in Syria.
There is a very high threat of kidnapping of foreigners, including Australians, throughout Yemen, including in the capital Sana’a. A number of foreigners were kidnapped in Sana’a and Ta’iz in 2012 and 2013. In the past, hostages have been killed. Yemeni Government interests are routinely targeted for attack by terrorists. Australians in Yemen should exercise extreme caution near facilities and installations belonging to the Yemeni authorities, including deployments of security forces and ministries. Australians choosing to remain in Yemen should be aware that foreigners, and any identifiable Western interest, could be targeted for attack. Targets could include hotels, embassies or vehicles. Further terrorist attacks are very likely and could occur at any time throughout Yemen. Political and economic developments in Yemen and the region may prompt large demonstrations which may become violent. Routes in and out of Sana’a and the other major cities may be blocked and airports closed or inaccessible with little notice. Piracy occurs against all forms of shipping in and around Yemen's waters and the Gulf of Aden.
For further information
The information in this release is accurate as of the date published, but rates, fees and other product features may have changed. Please see updated product information on finder.com.au's review pages for the current correct values.
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