US Embassy #Syria Now on Ordered Departure for Family Members and Non-Emergency Staff

Syria Damascus Douma Protests 2011 - 05Image by syriana2011 via FlickrToday, April 25, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Syria indicating escalating violent confrontations resulting in hundreds of deaths and the ordered departure of embassy family members and non-emergency staff from Damascus:

The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens to depart immediately while commercial transportation is readily available.  Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens who must remain in Syria are advised to limit nonessential travel within the country.  U.S. citizens not in Syria should defer all travel to Syria at this time.  The Department of State has ordered all eligible family members of U.S. government employees as well as certain non-emergency personnel to depart Syria.  Embassy operations will continue to the extent possible under the constraints of an evolving security situation.  Full consular passport and visa services continue to be provided.  This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Syria issued on April 4, 2011, to provide updated information on violent confrontations at demonstrations, increased security measures, and to note the ordered departure of some U.S. Embassy personnel and all family members.

Since March 2011, demonstrations throughout Syria have been violently suppressed by Syrian security forces, resulting in hundreds of deaths.  Demonstrations can take place anytime and anywhere.  Recent demonstrations have occurred on university campuses, main streets, public squares, mosques, and other places of public gathering.  We remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.  U.S. citizens are urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of a demonstration.

Several cities, including Damascus, have been placed under heightened security.  Travelers on Syrian roads have encountered an increased number of checkpoints and roadblocks impeding travel and preventing entry to or exit from affected cities.  On April 22, security forces prevented many from entering or leaving Damascus.

Syrian government constraints on observers, including the short-term detention of accredited diplomats, have made it difficult for Embassy personnel to adequately assess the current risks or the potential for continuing violence.

Syrian efforts to attribute the current civil unrest to external influences may lead to an increase in anti-foreigner sentiment.  Detained U.S. citizens may find themselves subject to allegations of incitement or espionage.  Contrary to the terms of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, of which Syria is a signatory, Syrian authorities generally do not notify the U.S. Embassy of the arrest of a U.S. citizen until days or weeks after the arrest.  Moreover, in the past, security officials have not responded to Embassy requests for consular access, especially in the case of persons detained for “security” reasons.

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