Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

  • Reviewed: 31 August 2018, 10:15 NZST
  • Still current at: 20 October 2019

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Do not travel

Do not travel to Iraq including the Kurdistan region, (except Erbil and Sulimaniyah cities) due to the volatile and unpredictable security situation, the ongoing threat of terrorism, violent extremism and organised crime.

New Zealanders currently in Iraq with concerns for their safety are strongly advised to depart immediately.

Avoid non-essential travel

Avoid non-essential travel to Erbil and Sulimaniyah cities due to the volatile and unpredictable security and political environment.

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New Zealanders currently in Iraq with concerns for their safety are strongly advised to depart immediately.

Security Situation
The security situation in Iraq is highly volatile and could deteriorate with little or no notice. The terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant remains active in parts of the country, as do other violent extremist groups engaged in sectarian, ethnic and tribal violence and organised crime. Political instability, crime and corruption, and civil unrest are also common in Iraq.

There is a continuing threat of violent attacks across Iraq from terrorist groups as well as militias and criminal gangs.

Attacks can occur without warning at anytime, anywhere in Iraq. Terrorists, violent extremists and both pro and anti-government militias continue to conduct frequent and lethal attacks on a wide range of targets in Iraq.

Targets include Iraqi Security Forces, government offices, large public gatherings and residential areas to maximise casualties.

Suicide bomb attacks, roadside bombs, car bombs, rocket attacks and small arms attacks occur frequently. Thousands of people have been killed and injured in these attacks throughout Iraq.

Erbil and Sulaymaniyah have been less affected by terrorism and violence than other parts of Iraq. However, terrorist groups remain active close to Kurdish region and the security situation in the region could deteriorate quickly.

Kurdistan region
The relationship between Iraq’s federal government in Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government in Erbil can be extremely volatile at times.

On 25 September 2017 Kurds voted in support of an independence referendum proposed by the regional government. The Government of Iraq does not recognise the results of the referendum.

The Kurdish regional remains vulnerable to regional instability and internal conflicts due to unresolved political tensions.

Violent crime and corruption are widespread throughout Iraq. Organised criminal groups pose a significant threat.

Kidnapping for ransom and hostage taking by extremists and militant groups for political gain or ransom is a significant problem throughout Iraq.

Over the past decade a large number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Iraq, including aid workers, security contractors, journalists and soldiers.  Many hostages have been killed or remain missing.

Civil Unrest
Political rallies and protests happen frequently in Baghdad and Basra and to a lesser extent Erbil. They can turn violent quickly and have led to injury and death. Political rallies and protests also present viable targets for terrorists. If you are in an area affected by civil unrest or violence, we recommend you keep a low profile, find a safe location, remain indoors and follow any local advice.

Security Forces
Iraqi Security Forces and international coalition forces are are engaged in an ongoing terrorist counter insurgency across central and northern Iraq. They also have a strong presence across the rest of Iraq.

Security restrictions like curfews and vehicle bans can be imposed at short notice.

Security checkpoints are common place and often ad hoc, however false checkpoints have also been used to launch attacks, kidnapping, robbery and murder.

Iraq has a large number of diverse security forces. They do not all enjoy cooperative relationships with one and other.

Turkish and Iranian security forces have also been known to conduct military incursions targeting terrorist or militia groups across Iraq’s northern borders.

Local travel
Travel across Iraq can be extremely dangerous and there continue to be fatal attacks involving roadside bombs and small arms fire.

There is also an ongoing threat from armed carjacking and robbery. Attacks happen during the day, but travelling at night is more dangerous.

As a result of political instability flights to and from Erbil and Sulimaniyah International Airports have been suspended from time to time in the past and the airport could close at short notice.

Domestic and international border crossings may close with little or no notice.

General Travel Advice
Given the New Zealand diplomatic presence in Iraq is small and the constraints placed on it by the security situation in Iraq, the ability of the government to assist New Zealand citizens requiring consular assistance is severely limited. We offer advice to New Zealanders about contingency planning that travellers to Iraq should consider.

New Zealanders who decide to travel to Iraq are strongly encouraged to: 

  • Consult a reputable security company (with experience in Iraq) for advice on security arrangements. Security arrangements should be reviewed on a regular basis. Such measures may mitigate the risks to your safety but cannot eliminate them entirely.
  • Ensure that appropriate personal security protection measures are in place at all times including a robust contingency plan. The New Zealand government will not be arranging an evacuation for New Zealand citizens, should commercial options for departure cease.
  • Avoid areas of military activity at all times including border areas, as these areas are dangerous, often the target of military operations and not always clearly defined.
  • Have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place that includes provision for medical evacuation by air. You should check that your travel insurance policy covers travel in Iraq – exclusions may well apply.
  • Be highly security conscious at all times, particularly in public places when travelling by road and close to government offices.
  • New Zealanders are advised to respect religious and social traditions in Iraq to avoid offending local sensitivities. 
  • Follow restrictions imposed by the local authorities and seek local advice on any changes to curfews. Exercise particular caution at checkpoints a uniform is not a guarantee that the wearer is acting in an official capacity.
  • Monitor local developments closely through media and other information sources on possible new safety and security risks. Follow instructions from local authorities. Remain vigilant and alert to your surroundings.

New Zealanders who decide to live or travel in Iraq against our advice are strongly advised to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Travel tips

New Zealand Embassy Baghdad, Iraq

Street Address The New Zealand Embassy Baghdad is located in the International Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. Access to the Embassy and the Embassy’s ability to provide consular services is limited by the security environment. Telephone +964(0)780 578 9546 Email Note Notarial Services: By appointment only

See our regional advice for the Middle East

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