Security and safety advice for Australians after bin Laden death: the latest from DFAT

By John Walton, May 3 2011
Security and safety advice for Australians after bin Laden death: the latest from DFAT

Government security agencies and foreign ministries around the world are ramping up their safety advice to travellers following the death of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. 

Concerned about reprisal strikes by al Qaeda and associated groups, western travellers are being advised to take extra precautions across the world, but especially in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia countries.

Expect extra security in airports around the world, particularly in the US and UK, and leave additional time to get through additional screening measures. 

DFAT announced that it had increased security levels at the High Commission in Islamabad:

Security at the Australian High Commission in Islamabad has been further strengthened and remains under constant review. Staff at the High Commission have been advised to minimise their use of restaurants and international hotels and exercise increased vigilance and security awareness.

The entirety of Pakistan is currently under a "Reconsider your need to travel" warning, with several areas, including borders with India, at the higher "Do not travel" level.

Travelling to specific areas where the Australian government is advising against travel could severely limit your insurance coverage in the event that something goes wrong. 

Travel insurers are entitled to refuse claims for trips commenced after a person should have been "reasonably" aware that their travel destination was dangerous. Recently, the Japanese earthquake/tsunami and Queensland floods resulted in denied claims. 

If you must travel to areas subject to a travel warning, get written confirmation from your travel insurance on how you will be covered in the event of a claim. 

DFAT also issued new worldwide travel advice, entitled Enhanced Risk of Anti-Western Violence late Monday:

Australians are advised that on 1 May 2011 the US Government issued a Worldwide Travel Alert warning of the enhanced potential for violence given recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has advised all Embassies and Consulates of the need for security awareness following the death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

The US Government has strongly urged its citizens overseas to limit their travel outside their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations. 

We advise Australians in areas likely to be affected by such gatherings to exercise enhanced vigilance regarding their personal security.

The US advice DFAT refers to says, in part:

The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan. Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. 

U.S. Embassy operations in affected areas will continue to the extent possible under the constraints of any evolving security situation. U.S. government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture.  In those instances, U.S. Embassies and Consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Australian Business Traveller's advice on preparing before you leave home for emergencies while travelling includes registering with DFAT in case an emergency. Here's our lowdown on the fastest and easiest way to register with DFAT's Smartraveller service.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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