Somalia

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Tuesday, 10 June 2014.   It contains new information in the Summary and under Health (updated information on poliovirus). We continue to strongly advise you not to travel to any part of Somalia because of armed conflict, the ongoing very high threat of terrorist attack and dangerous levels of violent crime, including kidnapping.

Somalia overall

Summary

  • We strongly advise you not to travel to any part of Somalia because of armed conflict, the ongoing very high threat of terrorist attack and dangerous levels of violent crime, including kidnapping.
  • If you are in Somalia, we strongly urge you to leave if it is safe to do so.
  • If, despite our advice, you travel to or remain in Somalia, you should be aware that the ability of the Australian government to provide consular services to Australians in Somalia is extremely limited. The Australian High Commission in Kenya is responsible for Somalia.
  • If you are an Australian/Somali dual national you will be regarded by Somali officials as Somali in the first instance. You may be prevented from contacting the Australian government if you are arrested or detained and our ability to provide consular assistance may be limited.
  • There is an ongoing very high threat of terrorist attack in Somalia. Westerners and those working for western and international organisations have been targeted and killed in terrorist attacks throughout the country, including the capital Mogadishu.
  • There have been several recent terrorist attacks in Mogadishu targeting foreigners and resulting in loss of life. Further attacks are likely.
  • Mogadishu International Airport, where there is a large presence of westerners, remains a high priority target for extremists.
  • There is an on-going very high threat of kidnapping in all parts of Somalia, including in Somaliland and Puntland. A large number of foreigners (including aid workers, journalists and religious representatives) have been kidnapped in Somalia in recent years. A number remain in captivity. Westerners kidnapped from Kenya have also been held by armed groups in Somalia.
  • Civil unrest and political tension can prompt demonstrations that may quickly turn violent. Australians are advised to avoid protests, rallies and demonstrations.
  • There is no effective police force in Somalia; lawlessness, violent crime, banditry and looting are common.
  • Attacks by pirates against all forms of shipping in and around Somalia's waters, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden remains a serious threat, including at some distance from the coast. We strongly advise Australians to maintain a high level of vigilance and to exercise extreme caution when sailing/boating anywhere near the Horn of Africa. See our piracy bulletin for further information.
  • 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 Somalia.
  • If you do decide to travel to Somalia, given the extremely dangerous security situation we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us, so we can endeavour to contact you in an emergency.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
click on image to expand

Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the Permanent Representative of the Somali Republic to the United Nations (425 East 61st Street, Suite 702, New York, United States, NY10021, telephone (212) 688-9410/5046; fax (212) 759-0651) or the Embassy of the Somali Republic in Kenya (Jabavu Road, Hurlingham, Nairobi, Kenya, telephone (254) (20) 273-6618, Fax (254) (20) 273-6619) for the most up-to-date information.

A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate may be required for entry into Somalia.

Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We strongly advise you not to travel to Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland, because of the very high threat of terrorist attack. If you are in Somalia, we strongly urge you to leave if it is safe to do so. Somalia is unsafe for tourism. If you are in Somalia, you should have appropriate personal security measures in place.

Somali militants have publicly threatened to carry out attacks in all areas of Somalia, including Puntland and Somaliland. Threats have also been made against Federal Government of Somali (FGS) targets and Africa Union (AU)/AMISOM peacekeepers.

Westerners and those working for western and international organisations have been targeted and killed in terrorist attacks throughout the country, including in the capital Mogadishu.

There have been several recent terrorist attacks in Mogadishu targeting foreigners and resulting in loss of life. In February 2014, a car bomb exploded near the entrance to Mogadishu International Airport, killing seven people. In June 2013, a car bomb exploded outside the UN Common Compound in Mogadishu. Armed insurgents then entered the compound, killing eight people.

Past attacks have involved multiple, consecutive explosions and/or gunfire.

Reports indicate militants continue to plan attacks against foreign oil companies and oil fields in Puntland.

Terrorists have targeted aircraft and airports. You should not travel through Somali airspace on aircraft without self-protection capabilities. Mogadishu International Airport, where there is a large presence of Westerners, remains a high priority target for extremists.

In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Possible terrorist targets include commercial and public areas known to be frequented by foreigners such as hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars, government and foreign interests, embassies, schools, markets and shopping areas, places of worship, transport and transport infrastructure, including airports and aircraft, foreign oil companies, oil infrastructure and oil fields, residential areas, outdoor recreation events, tourist areas and historic sites.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Ongoing very high threat of kidnapping in all parts of Somalia

There is an ongoing very high threat of kidnapping in all parts of Somalia, including in Puntland and Somaliland. Kidnappers may be motivated by crime or terrorism.

Foreigners, including those of Somali descent, face a continuing very high risk of kidnapping in Somalia. A large number of foreigners have been kidnapped in Somalia in recent years. Many remain in captivity.

Westerners kidnapped from Kenya have been held by armed groups in Somalia.

For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

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 do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.

Civil unrest/political tension

Somalia was without an effective central government after the overthrow of the Said Barre government in 1991. Somalia concluded its transitional governance period in September 2012 and a new federal government has now taken its place. While some security advances were made by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and other forces in 2012, the security situation remains tense and unpredictable across much of the country and the threat of conflict or attacks by armed groups remains high.

Security across Somalia, but particularly in southern and central Somalia and areas bordering Ethiopia and Kenya, remains unstable as a result of drought conditions. Food shortages are common and have resulted in the displacement of thousands of people. This has led to an increase in disease, an increased risk of crime and higher security threats to foreigners.

Armed conflict is prevalent in south-central Somalia, including in and around Mogadishu where intense fighting is common and moving around the city is dangerous. The security situation remains highly unstable and unpredictable.

Areas frequented by civilians, including residential areas and markets, have increasingly come under attack.

You should avoid all protests, rallies and demonstrations as they may turn violent. International events and political developments may prompt large demonstrations in Somalia.

Crime

There is no effective police force in Somalia. Lawlessness, violent crime, banditry and looting are common.

Fighting between armed gangs breaks out sporadically. Clan violence also occurs.

Anti-Western attitudes are strong in some parts of Somalia. This may result in the violent harassment of foreigners, including foreigners of Somali descent.

Due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

Money and valuables

Australian currency, credit cards and travellers' cheques are not accepted in Somalia. ATMs are not available in Somalia. US dollars are widely accepted.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

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 Australian High Commission in Nairobi 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.

Local travel

Road conditions are poor and dangerous. Landmines are a danger throughout Somalia. Illegal roadblocks are common. For further advice on road travel, see our road travel page.

Piracy: While the number of attacks has recently declined, the threat of piracy in waters off the Somali coast remains. Attacks by pirates in and around Somalia’s waters, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden remain a serious threat, including some distance from the Somali coast. Pirates are likely to be heavily armed.

Vessels are advised to stay more than 1000 nautical miles (1852km) from the coast of the Horn of Africa, although even this distance may not be safe, and to exercise extreme caution. Vessels are strongly advised to travel in convoy and maintain good communications at all times.

All forms of shipping are attractive targets for Somali pirates, including commercial vessels, pleasure craft (yachts etc) and luxury cruise liners. We strongly advise Australians to maintain a high level of vigilance and to exercise extreme caution when anywhere near these waters.

See our piracy bulletin and the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa website for further information. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

Airline safety

Airports and aircraft are possible targets for terrorists. See Safety and security: Terrorism above. You should not travel through Somali airspace on aircraft without self-protection capabilities.

Mogadishu International Airport, where there is a large presence of Westerners, remains a high priority target for extremists.

For further information, please refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Somalia, 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 cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter. Somalia is not a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which means the provision of consular services may be limited. Australians holding Somali citizenship will be regarded as Somali in the first instance and therefore may find they have limited capacity to notify the Australian Government of their situation.

Due to the security situation, the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular services to Australians is extremely limited. You should be aware that consular services may only be available remotely from the Australian High Commission in Nairobi.

You should be aware that the criminal justice in Somalia differs significantly from Australia. The enforcement of criminal laws is haphazard, and there is no uniform application of due process.

Courts operate with a combination of Somali customary and Sharia law.

Australians who 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 prior to travel, if possible, and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Homosexual acts are illegal and penalties may include imprisonment. Sharia law applies in some parts of Somalia, particularly in the south. In these areas, the punishment for homosexual activity can include flogging or the death penalty. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Preaching religion other than Islam is illegal in Puntland and Somaliland and strongly discouraged elsewhere.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and may include imprisonment and heavy fines.

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.

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 including imprisonment of up to 25 years. For more information about these crimes, please refer to the Forced marriage and Genital mutilation pages.

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.

The United Nations Security Council has imposed sanctions against Somalia, including an arms embargo. It is illegal under Australian law to provide any support related to military activities to any armed group in Somalia, without authorisation from the Australian Government. This includes engaging in fighting, funding, training or recruiting someone to fight and supplying or funding weapons or military equipment.

Local customs

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin on or around 28 June 2014 and finish on or around 27 July 2014. 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 the presence of people who are fasting. For more information see our Ramadan travel bulletin.

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Somalia. You should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Information for dual nationals

If you are an Australian/Somali dual national you will be regarded by Somali officials as Somali in the first instance. You may be prevented from contacting the Australian government if you are arrested or detained and our ability to provide consular assistance may be limited. 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.

Medical facilities in Somalia are extremely limited. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation is very difficult to organise and costs are considerable.

Malaria occurs throughout the year in all parts of Somalia. Chloroquine-resistant strains of malaria are reported. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, yellow fever, filariasis and leishmaniasis) also occur. We encourage you to take prophylaxis against malaria and take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent at all times, wearing long, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including cholera, hepatitis, meningococcal, measles and tuberculosis) are prevalent, while outbreaks of other diseases (including meningitis, Rift Valley fever and typhoid) occur from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

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 Somalia.

Should you choose to ignore our advice not to travel to Somalia 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 Somalia, and staying for periods greater than 4 weeks, are encouraged to carry documented evidence of having received a dose of polio vaccine within 12 months prior to departure from Somalia. If you do not have documented evidence of polio vaccination within this 12 month period, you may be encouraged to be vaccinated prior to departure from Somalia.

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

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Somalia is high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Where to get help

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Somalia.

You can obtain consular assistance from the Australian High Commission in Kenya:

Australian High Commission, Nairobi

Riverside Drive (400 metres off Chiromo Road)
Nairobi, KENYA
Telephone: (+254) 20 427 7100
Facsimile: (+254) 20 427 7139
Website: www.kenya.highcommission.gov.au

If you are travelling to Somalia, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend you register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency, whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the High Commission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Earthquakes and tremors occur in Somalia.

Somalia experienced severe drought from July 2011 until February 2012. As a result, many areas of Somalia continue to suffer from food shortages and thousands of people remain displaced. This has led to an increase in disease, an increased risk of crime and higher security threats to foreigners.

The temperature in Somalia is often extremely high. The average maximum temperature can exceed 45˚C during the hottest months.

The monsoon season extends from May to October in the southwest and from December to February in the northeast.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



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.