Syria

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Tuesday, 12 August 2014.   It contains updated information in the Summary and under Safety and security (there has been a marked increase in kidnappings of NGO workers and journalists in 2014). We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Syria because of the extremely dangerous security situation, highlighted by ongoing military clashes, kidnappings and terrorist attacks. If you are in Syria you should depart immediately by commercial means while it is still possible to do so. Australian Government consular assistance is no longer available within Syria.

Syria overall

Summary

  • We strongly advise Australians 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.
  • It is illegal under Australian law for Australian citizens, including dual citizens, to provide any kind of support to any armed group in Syria. This includes engaging in fighting for either side, funding, training or recruiting someone to fight and supplying or funding weapons for either side.
  • You should be aware that current international tensions may cause disruptions to essential services and further limit your options for departure by air and road.
  • In 2014, there has been a marked increase in the number of reported kidnappings of NGO workers and journalists. .
  • On 5 May 2014 the World Health Organisation 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 Syria.
  • Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Syria. Australian Government consular assistance is no longer available within Syria. See Where to get help for more information.
  • Due to the security environment, you should register your presence in Syria with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
click on image to expand

Entry and exit

Travellers visiting for more than 14 days must register with Syrian immigration authorities before their 15th day in Syria. If you stay more than 14 days you will need to obtain an exit visa before leaving Syria. Australians who have been issued with Syrian Residence Permits will also need to get an “exit and return” stamp before leaving Syria.

If you are Syrian with Australian citizenship, or your child is, then you may leave Syria within three months from the date of your entry without obtaining an exit visa. If you have stayed more than three months, then you will need to obtain an exit visa for you and your children before leaving.

Children under 18 years of age who were born in Syria must have their father's permission to leave Syria, irrespective of the status of their parents' marriage or if the mother has been granted full custody by a Syrian court.

Women in Syria can be subject to strict family controls and may be prevented from leaving the country. A Syrian husband may legally prevent his wife from leaving the country, regardless of her nationality.

Australians of Arab origin have been detained by Syrian authorities for long periods without charge on arrival.

Failure to declare all foreign currency and electronic equipment on arrival in Syria may result in delays on departure.

Safety and security

We strongly advise Australians not to travel to Syria because of the extremely dangerous security situation, highlighted by ongoing military conflict, terrorist attacks and large numbers of kidnappings involving foreign nationals.

Since April 2011, the Australian Government has recommended that Australians in Syria depart immediately by commercial means while it is possible to do so. You should be aware that current international tensions may cause disruptions to essential services and further limit your options for departure by air and road.

The increasing levels of violence, growing political disorder and Syria’s chemical and biological weapons program create an extremely dangerous security situation in Syria.

In August 2013, there was a significant attack in Damascus involving the use of chemical weapons. Further incidents of chemical weapons use in the conflict are possible.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Kidnapping

The conflict in Syria has resulted in the kidnapping of a significant number of foreign nationals, including media, humanitarian workers and other foreigners.

In 2014, there has been a marked increase in the number of reported kidnapings of NGO workers and journalists. The US Government has also recently warned of a kidnapping plot against Western journalists travelling to central and southern Syria.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place. For information see our Kidnapping Threat travel bulletin.

Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Syria. Australian Government consular assistance is no longer available within Syria. See Where to get help for more information.

Departure options

All Australians in Syria should depart immediately by commercial means while it is still possible to do so. You should carry a current passport or travel document at all times. You are responsible for ensuring that your travel documents are up-to-date. See the Entry and exit section for more information.

Commercial aviation services and airports could suspend operations indefinitely at any time. The extremely dangerous security environment also has the potential to affect your travel options to airports and the availability of seats on aircraft.

Some commercial airlines have already ceased flying to Syria; others may do likewise without notice, including Arab League carriers.

Civilian airports could come under attack at any time, including in Damascus and Aleppo.

Evacuation options are likely to be limited by telecommunication and travel restrictions. Road networks may become blocked due to demonstrations or violent clashes. Roadblocks and closures have already affected access to some border crossing points. You should check the status of access routes to airports and borders before travelling. Borders and roads may close with little or no warning.

Major highways, including Tartous-Latakia, Tartous-Homs, Latakia-Aleppo, Homs-Hama, Homs-Damascus and Damascus-Jordan, may become or are already blocked due to demonstrations or violent clashes.

The main Jaber/Nasib border crossing with Jordan is open but with access limited due to numerous roadblocks along the route. At times this crossing has been affected by the ongoing unrest. You should avoid the Ar Ramtha border crossing to Jordan due to its proximity to Dera’a and the potential to encounter violent civil unrest there. You should also avoid the Tal Kalakh/Hdaideh crossing to north-east Lebanon because of violence in Tal Kalakh. You should not attempt to enter Iraq via the Syrian border.

Advice for Australians remaining in Syria

If, despite our advice to depart immediately, you choose to remain, you should make your own contingency and security arrangements and secure a valid exit visa in your passport in case you need to depart quickly.

Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Syria. Australian Government consular assistance is no longer available within Syria. See Where to get help for more information.

Due to the security environment, you should register your presence in Syria with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online.

Australians who choose to remain in Syria should pay very close attention to their personal security at all times. You should position yourself in a safe place and limit your movements as much as possible.

You should be aware that access to basic necessities and fuel could become difficult. You should take advantage of daylight hours to restock supplies if safe to do so. Ample stocks of water, food, toiletries, fuel and any prescription medications should be included in your contingency arrangements.

You should avoid any large gatherings and demonstrations as they may turn violent. You should also avoid areas where people congregate after Friday midday prayers in all parts of Syria and avoid funerals and mourning processions. You should be aware that Syrian authorities have arrested people in the vicinity of demonstrations, regardless of their citizenship.

Under Syrian law, travellers are required to carry identification documents at all times.

Crime

The breakdown in law and order has led to an increase in crime, including violent robberies, kidnapping and carjacking, in some areas.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Money and valuables

As a result of international sanctions, financial institutions in several countries have suspended their transactions with Syrian counterparts. Credit cards may not be accepted in Syria and you may not be able to access your funds via ATMs. It is recommended that you carry sufficient cash in either US dollars or Euros.

It is illegal to change money on the streets. Money can be changed in government banks or recognised exchange shops. However, many exchange bureaux are no longer able to exchange currency. Syrian pounds cannot be converted into US dollars on departure.

Local travel

Australians who choose to remain in Syria should ensure that they take into account the security environment before contemplating any travel.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about Aviation Safety and Security.

Laws

If you choose to remain in Syria, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones 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 dangerous security situation in Syria the Australian government’s ability to provide consular assistance is severely limited.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

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

Serious crimes, such as murder, may attract the death penalty.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include the death penalty.

Homosexuality is illegal and laws are strictly enforced. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Photography of military or government installations and other sensitive infrastructure is strictly prohibited.

Under Syrian law, travellers are required to carry identification documents at all times.

Anyone considering preaching a religion other than Islam should seek local advice as restrictions may apply.

Australia has imposed sanctions against Syria, including an arms embargo. It is illegal under Australian law for Australian citizens, including dual citizens, to provide any kind of support to any armed group in Syria. This includes engaging in fighting for either side, funding, training or recruiting someone to fight and supplying or funding weapons for either side.

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.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of 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 ranging up to 25 years imprisonment. For more information about these crimes, please refer to the forced marriage and female genital mutilation pages.

Local customs

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in mid-June 2015. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, people who are not fasting are advised to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting. For more information see our Ramadan travel bulletin.

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Syria, particularly around religious sites. Unmarried couples of Syrian or Arab descent may face difficulties securing shared accommodation.

Information for dual nationals

Syria recognises dual nationality, but Syrian citizenship takes primacy over the second nationality. If you are an Australian/Syrian dual national, you will be treated as a Syrian national by government authorities. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Syrian dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Children of Syrian men acquire Syrian citizenship at birth.

Syria may allow dual nationals who have been resident in Australia to enter and stay for up to 3 months before becoming liable for military service, but dual nationals should seek this advice in writing from the nearest embassy or consulate of Syria before departing Australia. Payment of fines in lieu of military service is possible in certain circumstances.

Children under 18 year of age must have their father's permission to leave Syria, irrespective of the status of their parents' marriage or if the mother has been granted full custody by a Syrian court.

Women in Syria can be subject to strict family controls and may be prevented from leaving the country. A Syrian husband may legally prevent his wife from leaving the country, regardless of her nationality.

Our dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you 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 a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations 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.

Due to the ongoing violence in Syria access to hospitals may be limited. The quality of healthcare has deteriorated significantly during the current conflict. Medications may also be in short supply.

Facilities and medicines may not be available in smaller towns or in outlying areas of the country. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation out of Syria to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Costs for a medical evacuation are considerable and may prove very difficult to arrange in current circumstances.

On 5 May 2014 the World Health Organisation (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 Syria.

Should you choose to ignore our advice not to travel to Syria at the current time, we recommend that you are up to date with routinely recommended vaccinations against polio, including a booster dose, as per the Australian Immunisation Handbook, prior to departure.

Australian travellers planning to visit Syria, and staying for periods greater than 4 weeks, are required to carry documented evidence of having received a dose of polio vaccine within 12 months prior to departure from Syria. If you do not have documented evidence of polio vaccination within this 12 month period, you may be required to be vaccinated prior to departure from Syria.

Please see your doctor to discuss your vaccination requirements. Further information is available from the Australian Department of Health Polio website.

Insect-borne diseases (such as leishmaniasis) are prevalent in Syria. Malaria occurs in the northern border region, particularly Al Hasakah Province. We encourage you to take prophylaxis against malaria where necessary, use insect repellent, wear long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including brucellosis, typhoid, hepatitis and tuberculosis) are prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes, unpasteurised dairy foods, and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Syria. Australian Government consular assistance is no longer available within Syria. The Romanian Embassy in Damascus may be able to provide limited emergency consular services to Australian citizens in Syria, in conjunction with the Australian Embassy in Cairo.

Romanian Embassy, Damascus

8, Rue Ibrahim Hanano,
PO Box 4454, Damascus, SYRIA
Telephone: +963 11 332 75 70 or +963 11 332 75 72
Facsimile: +963 11 332 75 71
Email: consulara@gmail.com or damasc@mae.ro

Australian Embassy, Cairo

11th floor, World Trade Centre
1191 Corniche el Nil
Boulac
Cairo, EGYPT
Telephone: (20 2) 2770 6600
Facsimile: (20 2) 2770 6650
Website: www.egypt.embassy.gov.au

Due to the security environment, you should register your presence in Syria with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online.

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

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Syria is subject to earthquakes. Dust and sand storms also occur.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.