Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

  • Reviewed: 21 February 2017, 11:01 NZDT
  • Still current at: 18 July 2018

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Extreme Risk

There is extreme risk to your security in Iraq, including Kurdistan, due to the volatile and unpredictable security situation, ongoing threat of terrorism, and significant risk of kidnapping. The threat to foreigners in Iraq, including New Zealanders, is extremely high and we advise against all travel.

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

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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 (ISIL) remains in control of parts of the country, including parts of Anbar, Ninewah, Salah-ad-din and Diyala provinces.

Iraqi and Kurdish security forces continue to engage with militants across central and northern Iraq and international coalition forces are conducting targeted airstrikes against ISIL in northern and western Iraq.  

Terrorism, kidnapping and the hostile security situation present a significant risk to New Zealanders throughout Iraq. The intensity and frequency of security concerns and incidents in Iraq has remained high since the expansion of ISIL-held territory in 2015. A large number of civilians have been killed as a result of terrorism and sectarian violence. The main target of attacks are Shia civilians, however attacks continue to target foreigners, Iraqi political figures and those associated with the Iraqi government. Despite the International Zone in Baghdad being fortified, attacks and civil unrest can still occur.

New Zealanders who decide to travel to Iraq against our advice should ensure that appropriate personal security protection measures are in place at all times including a robust contingency plan. We strongly recommend you 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.

Kurdistan region
The provinces of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah in the Iraqi Kurdistan region have been less affected by terrorism and violence than other parts of Iraq. However, ISIL controls territory close to Kurdish areas and the security situation in the region could deteriorate quickly. There have been attacks on towns to the south-west of Erbil and a number of terrorist attacks in the region, including in Erbil itself. Flights to and from Erbil International Airport have been suspended from time to time in the past and the airport could close at short notice.  

There is a continuing extreme threat from terrorism throughout Iraq. Suicide bomb attacks, roadside bombs, car bombs, rocket attacks and small arms attacks occur frequently. Attacks can occur without warning at anytime, anywhere in Iraq. Terrorists, extremists and both pro and anti-government militias continue to conduct frequent and lethal attacks on a wide range of targets in Iraq.

There have been attacks on the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations, non-governmental organisations, journalists, foreign contractors and visitors to Iraq. Targets have included residential compounds, hotels, government buildings, places of worship and places frequented by foreigners.

In January 2015, a commercial aircraft was struck by gunfire on approach into Baghdad International Airport. As a result, some airlines suspended services. Further attacks are feasible and could well occur.

New Zealanders throughout Iraq are advised to be highly security conscious at all times, particularly in public places when travelling by road and close to government offices.

Kidnapping for ransom and hostage taking of foreign nationals by extremists and militant groups for political gain 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. With the deteriorating situation across much of Iraq, there is an increased threat to foreigners, particularly in areas where ISIL has a presence.

Close security protection is extremely important for those working or moving around Baghdad, but does not mitigate the risk entirely. 

Civil Unrest
New Zealanders in Iraq are advised to avoid any demonstrations and political rallies as they have the potential to turn violent with little warning. Incidents of civil unrest and looting can occur with little warning. If you are in an area affected by civil unrest, looting or violence, we recommend you keep a low profile, find a safe location, remain indoors and follow any local advice.

Security Restrictions
Security restrictions like curfews and vehicle bans can be imposed at short notice. We recommend you adhere to any restrictions imposed by the local authorities and seek local advice on any changes to curfews. 

Areas of military activity should be avoided at all times, including Iraq's northern border where Turkish and Iranian military forces have conducted operations.

Local travel
The Government of Iraq has begun to implement measures to strengthen the structural integrity of the Mosul Dam in the north of Iraq, due to concerns it could breach. The breaching of the dam would result in significant flooding along the floodplain of the Tigris River, including in Baghdad. While it’s not currently known if or when the dam will breach, New Zealanders in Iraq are advised to prepare their own contingency plans for evacuation and monitor local media reports for updates. The New Zealand government will not be arranging an evacuation for New Zealand citizens, should commercial options for departure cease.

Travel by road in Iraq can be extremely dangerous and there continue to be fatal attacks involving roadside bombs and small arms fire. The road between Baghdad and Baghdad International Airport has been targeted in the past. There is also an ongoing threat from armed carjacking and robbery.

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.

New Zealanders are advised to respect religious and social traditions in Iraq to avoid offending local sensitivities. 

New Zealanders travelling or living in Iraq should 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.

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 Australian Embassy Compound, Haifa Street, International Zone, Baghdad, Iraq Telephone +964(0)780 578 9546 Email Hours Sun - Thu 0830-1600 Note Notarial Services: By appointment only

See our regional advice for the Middle East

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