State Department: Egypt Travel Warning, Emergency Evacuations01 Feb 2011
In recent days, Cairo, Alexandria, and other parts of Egypt have been rocked by massive demonstrations, demanding free and fair elections, an end to government repression, and other political and social reforms. It is too early to say how all this will end – whether the demonstrations will effect change by largely peaceful means, or sporadic violence will become more widespread and lead to prolonged civil unrest, even war.
What is certain is that Egypt is dangerously unstable at the moment – so much so that the U.S. Department of State (DOS) advises U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Egypt until further notice. (See Travel Warning, U.S. Department of State, 30.Jan.2011.) The warning should be heeded, since the DOS also has authorized voluntary departure of non-emergency employees, as well as family members of Embassy staffers – a sure sign of trouble.
U.S. citizens in Egypt are advised to leave the country as soon as they can safely do so, avoiding areas of unrest and getting to the airport before the government-imposed curfew, which runs from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez. The DOS is running charter flights to evacuate U.S. citizens to safe locations in Europe. (See U.S. Embassy, Cairo, Warden Message #6, 31.Jan.2011.) Passengers on these flights must reimburse the government for the cost of the evacuation flight, comparable to the cost of a commercial flight from Egypt to the safe-haven country in Europe. Onward travel arrangements – for example, back to the United States – are the responsibility of each individual passenger.
Only documented U.S. citizens may travel on these evacuation flights, along with immediate family members (spouses and children) who are not U.S. citizens but have the documents required to transit and/or enter the safe-haven country, and to enter the United States, if that is their final destination. Check the U.S. Embassy/Cairo website for further details on evacuation flights.
At this writing, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo remains open for emergency assistance to U.S. citizens only, subject to possible street closures around the embassy, due to ongoing protests in the area. Although Internet service and other forms of communication may be disrupted, the DOS recommends checking the embassy website – if possible – before attempting to go there. The Travel Warning advises:
“U.S. citizens in Egypt who require assistance, or those who are concerned that their U.S. citizen loved one in Egypt may require assistance, should contact the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo at EgyptEmergencyUSC@state.gov, or at 1-202-501-4444.”
A toll-free State Department hotline is available within the United States and Canada, at 1.888.407.4747. Within Egypt, the U.S. Embassy may be reached at (20-2) 2797 3300; Americans citizens with after-hours emergencies can reach the Embassy duty officer at the same number.
The DOS cautions American citizens in Egypt to monitor local news broadcasts and to avoid all demonstrations, “…as even peaceful ones can quickly become unruly and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse.” U.S. citizens are further advised to carry identification with them at all times, and a cell phone that works in Egypt.
We hope for a peaceful resolution to Egypt’s current civil unrest – a resolution that leaves the country in a better place than before the demonstrations started. In the meantime, Americans in Egypt, and their relatives in the United States, should check the DOS WebSite for updates on the situation, as it unfolds.