Reasons behind State Department travel warnings for 25 countries
When planning travel off the beaten path, it’s typically a good idea to check in first with the U.S. Department of State. No matter how exciting and enticing the prospect of an adventure may be, there are some places where the danger of travel outweighs the benefits that might come from making the journey.
To help travelers assess just this kind of risk, the State Department has come up with a ranking system for its advisories. The highest level of warning, Level 4, indicates a Do Not Travel zone, where United States citizens in particular should not go. Countries on this list tend to be mired in active violent conflicts, lack functioning security institutions, and sometimes any semblance of government at all. Other reasons for countries to appear on this list include terrorism and the presence of diseases like Ebola.
A Level 3 means the State Department is issuing a warning to those looking to travel to the country, and asks them to reconsider nonessential travel. Level 3 countries pose serious risks to safety and security, often times in areas outside the capital and embassy areas.
Further down, Level 2 indicates that there are simple security measures that travelers should abide by, and things they should be aware of while traveling to keep themselves safe. Many countries on the Level 2 list have more violent pasts that are now decades old, and the warnings are aimed at keeping travelers safe from any of the residual violence.
Level 1 countries are those that travelers should feel free to visit relatively freely, although the State Department warns that there are inherent risks in any international travel, and that travelers should be aware whenever they leave the country to exercise caution, since customs may differ from those in the U.S.
Stacker takes a look at 25 countries the State Department has issued travel warnings for from April to Augut 2019, and why those warnings are in effect.
The State Department’s highest level of travel warning, Level 4, is in effect for North Korea as of July 10, 2019. The U.S. does not have diplomatic or consular relations with the secretive dictatorial regime, and is unable to assist citizens in the case of an emergency. Several Americans have learned this the hard way, having been detained for supposed crimes against the state and sentenced to hard labor.
A Level 4 advisory has been in effect since May 15, 2019. The warning specifically applies to American citizens and companies in the country, due to the presence of anti-American militias and terrorist groups, plus the high risk for violence and kidnapping. The State Department has a limited ability to assist in the case of emergency, as embassies and consulates in the country recently evacuated all non-emergency personnel.
Sudan has had a Level 4 advisory since April 11, 2019. The high warning is due to several factors causing instability in the country, including a state of emergency imposed by Sudan’s repressive ousted president, Omar al-Bashir, that has been called unlawful by watchdog groups. The state of emergency dissolved much of the government and has given security forces the power to detain indefinitely for any reason. Bombing, carjacking, home invasion, and kidnapping are also common.
The State Department’s Level 4 advisory, last updated April 9, 2019, is largely thanks to the country’s civil war. The resulting chaos has allowed terrorist and other groups to carry out acts of violence without repercussions, including bombings and kidnappings. The State Departments warns that Westerners, including Americans, are at a particular risk of being targeted for kidnapping or attack.
Venezuela is under a Travel 4 advisory (last updated April 9, 2019) due to the civic unrest that has gripped the country in recent months. The U.S. ordered the departure of all non-emergency personnel in January due to the political instability and the high potential for violence, which includes common instances of homicide, armed robbery, kidnapping, and carjacking.
Syria’s Level 4 advisory (last updated April 9, 2019) has been in effect for years, thanks to a civil war that has been ongoing since 2011. There is also the presence of terrorist groups, including the Islamic State, in the country. Syria’s autocratic leader Bashar al-Assad has brutally cracked down on dissident groups and rebels, including using poison gases and nerve agents; he also sees the U.S. (and by proxy its citizens) as supportive of the country’s rebels. The Islamic State compounds the danger, having carried out many gruesome attacks against Westerners, including those covering the conflict.
South Sudan’s Level 4 advisory (last updated April 9, 2019) is due to the extreme and varied forms of violence common in the country, and its particular hostility towards Westerners. Traveling in South Sudan puts many at risk for kidnapping, shooting, carjacking, ambushes, and various forms of sexual violence. Reporting in the country without papers from the South Sudanese Media Authority is a crime, and many journalists have been killed while reporting on the country’s civil war.
The State Department’s Level 4 advisory for Somalia (last updated April 9, 2019) is due to terrorism, lawlessness, and a particular level of violence targeted against Westerners. Terrorists target shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, air and seaports, and other areas where Westerners are known to gather, opening fire indiscriminately or detonating bombs. Pirates are also active in the Horn of Africa, especially off the coast of Somalia.
Mali’s Level 4 advisory (last updated April 9, 2019) is in place to deter travelers from putting themselves at the high risk for terrorism, violence, and kidnapping that occurs within this country. This African nation has been gripped by sectarian violence and an overall deteriorating security situation, in which Malian terrorist organizations have been able to attack nightclubs, restaurants, offices, and hotels frequented by foreigners.
The security situation in Libya is dire, and accounts for the Level 4 warning, last updated April 9, 2019. Ever since Moammar Gadhafi was ousted and killed in the country’s 2011 uprisings, no government has been able to successfully assert control over the country. Terrorists and militia groups have targeted Westerners in particular. Extremist groups have made threats against U.S. citizens, groups, and leaders, and Westerners have been kidnapped for ransom.