Expats urged to leave Syria

by Ray Clancy on June 27, 2011

Expats warned in Syria

Expats in Syria are being encouraged to leave as the political tension and violence mounts. Embassy officials in a number of countries are warning that they cannot guarantee help if there is a further breakdown in law and order.

The UK, France, Germany and the United States are among the countries that are also warning that if there is a complete breakdown evacuations would be difficult. They are urging their citizens to leave while commercial means are still possible.

‘British nationals should leave now by commercial means whilst these are still operating. Those who choose to remain in Syria, or to visit against our advice should be aware that it is highly unlikely that the British Embassy in Damascus would be able to provide a normal consular service in the event of a further breakdown in law and order and increased violent civil disorder. Evacuation options would be limited because of likely communication and travel restrictions,’ says a statement from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

‘It is important that British nationals in Syria maintain a close watch on the situation and take responsibility for their own safety and security, making contingency plans accordingly. Our advice is very clear, because of the current situation, we advise against all travel to Syria. We ask British nationals to heed this advice and leave the country now,’ it added.

Officials are also warning that it is likely that road networks may be blocked during disturbances or demonstrations. Several major highways including Tartous-Latakia, Tartous-Homs, Latakia-Aleppo, Homs-Hama, Homs-Damascus and Damascus-Jordan have been temporarily closed because of demonstrations or disturbances.

There has also been an increase in the number of security force checkpoints on major road routes. There is an increased likelihood of large gatherings on public holidays and at weekends, particularly in the hours following Friday prayers.

Disturbances and road closures have affected access to some land border crossing points. ‘This may happen at short notice, and it may not be possible to guarantee security along the route. You should check the status of the border crossing and access routes before travelling.  The Ar Ramtha border crossing to Jordan remains closed due to disturbances in the city of Deraa; the main Nasib/Jaber border crossing is currently open, but at times it has also been affected, with limited access due to numerous roadblocks along the route. You should avoid the Tal Kalakh/Hdaideh crossing into northeast Lebanon. You should not attempt to enter Iraq via the Syrian border, which is subject to restrictions on both sides,’ the British advice continues.

Officials are also warning that threats from terrorism remain. ‘Attacks cannot be ruled out and could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers,’ they said. This is on top of the threats from military operations and clashes between protestors and security forces have resulted in a significant number of deaths.

Expats are advised to personal safety precautions such as avoiding all public gatherings and demonstrations of any kind, as they all have the potential to turn hostile. ‘You should be particularly vigilant in public places. There has been live gunfire during some of the demonstrations. If you are caught up in such a situation, you should keep a low profile, leave the area as soon as it is safe to do so and make your way to a safe location,’ adds the British advice.

People are also being advised not to film or take photographs of gatherings, as this will attract attention. ‘You should keep your passport with you for identification purposes. It is likely that mobile phone, landline and Internet networks will be disrupted during a protest,’ it continues.

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