Somalia

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 02 July 2015.   This advice has been reviewed and updated. There has been an increase in terrorist attacks across Somalia in recent weeks. The level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise you not to travel to any part of Somalia because of armed conflict, the ongoing very high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping and dangerous levels of violent crime.

Somalia overall

Summary

  • You should not travel to any part of Somalia because of armed conflict, the ongoing very high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping and dangerous levels of violent crime.
  • 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 will 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.
  • Terrorist attacks in Mogadishu are frequent, and can target foreigners. There has been an increase in attacks across the country in recent weeks and further attacks are likely. See Safety and security.
  • Mogadishu International Airport, where there is a large presence of westerners, was attacked on 25 December 2014, killing 3 African Union peacekeepers and a civilian contractor. It remains a high priority target for extremists.
  • There is an ongoing 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.
  • 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, clan violence, 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.
  • In 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 (renewed in February 2015) 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.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

As visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice, you should contact the nearest Consulate-General of Somalia for the most up to date information. You should be aware that such establishments, where they exist, are affiliated with the central government, whose authority is not established throughout all of Somalia. The Permanent Representative of the Somali Republic to the United Nations is located at 425 East 61st Street, Suite 702, New York, United States, NY10021, telephone (212) 688-9410/5046; fax (212) 759-0651.

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.

Safety and security

Terrorism

You should not 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 not safe for tourism. If you are in Somalia, you should have robust personal security measures in place.

Somali militants have publicly threatened, and possess the capability, to carry out attacks in all areas of Somalia, including Mogadishu, Puntland and Somaliland. There has been an increase in terrorist attacks in recent weeks. In June 2015, at least 35 people, including several foreigners, were killed in two separate attacks in Mogadishu and Leego. In April 2015, more than 25 people were killed including four UN workers in separate bombings of government buildings in Mogadishu and a UN compound in Puntland.

Attacks, resulting in deaths, have regularly been conducted against Federal Government of Somali (FGS) targets, including on government buildings, in an ongoing attempt to undermine confidence in Somalia. Attacks have also been directed at westerners, those working for western and international organisations and Africa Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers.

Attacks have involved multiple, consecutive explosions, with car bombs and armed gunmen.

Terrorists have targeted aircraft and airports. You should not travel through Somali airspace on aircraft without robust security measures. Mogadishu International Airport, where there is a large presence of Westerners, remains a high priority target for extremists. Four people were killed in an attack on the airport in December 2014.

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. Australians should be particularly vigilant in the lead-up to and during all religious festivals, particularly Ramadan, and days of national significance as militants have used such occasions to mount attacks.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.

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 threat of kidnapping in Somalia. A large number of foreigners have been kidnapped in Somalia in recent years.

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

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 decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place. See our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

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 and installed a new federal government in September 2012. Somali security forces, with the assistance of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), have liberated Mogadishu and other cities in southern and central Somalia from the control of the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab. However the security situation remains unpredictable across much of the country and the threat of conflict or attacks by armed groups remains high.

Armed conflict is ongoing across south-central Somalia. Residential areas and markets have been subject to shootings and grenade attacks.

You should avoid all protests, rallies and demonstrations as they may turn violent.

Drought conditions and delayed rainfall in southern and central Somalia and areas bordering Ethiopia and Kenya have contributed to the unstable security environment. Food shortages are common and have resulted in the displacement of thousands of people. This has led to an increase in disease and an increased risk of crime.

Crime

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

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 generally available in Somalia. US dollars are widely accepted.

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 online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

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 declined in recent years, 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 (1850km) from the coast of the Horn of Africa, although even this distance may not be safe. 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 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 also issues piracy reports.

Airline safety

Airports and aircraft are possible targets for terrorists. See Safety and security. You should not travel through Somali airspace on aircraft without robust security measures.

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

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Somalia.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Somalia, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

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. Australia does not have a diplomatic mission in Somalia.

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. Strict Sharia law, including corporal and capital punishment, is in force in those areas under Al-Shabaab control.

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 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. See our Drugs page.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, 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 Female 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 began on 17 June 2015. 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 public and in the presence of people who are fasting. For more information see our Ramadan bulletin.

Standards of dress and behaviour in Somalia are very conservative. 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.

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, polio, Rift Valley fever and typhoid) occur regularly. 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.

In 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 four 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. If you are a victim of violent crime, especially rape, you are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Where to get help

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. The ability of the Australian government to provide consular services to Australians in Somalia is extremely limited.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Somalia.

You can contact the Australian Government at the Australian High Commission in Kenya for consular assistance. See contact details below:

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

See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

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 experiences strong variations in climatic conditions, including regular droughts and floods. 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.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following link:



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.