Pakistan, India among countries urging nationals to refrain from travelling to Iraq

Updated January 08, 2020

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People attend a funeral procession for Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Iran on Jan 5. — Reuters/File
People attend a funeral procession for Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Iran on Jan 5. — Reuters/File

Iran launched missile attacks on United States-led forces in Iraq on Wednesday in retaliation for the US drone strike on Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani whose killing has raised fears of a wider war in the Middle East.

As the fallout from Soleimani's killing threatens to spill over, countries across the world have issued travel advisories cautioning their citizens from venturing to Iraq.

'Exercise max restraint': Pakistan

In light of heightened tensions in the region, the Foreign Office has advised Pakistanis to exercise maximum restraint while planning a visit to Iraq, stated a press release issued on Wednesday.

"Those already in Iraq are advised to remain in close contact with the Pakistan embassy in Baghdad," the statement added.

Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui also confirmed the same on Twitter.

Indians told to avoid 'non-essential' travel

India has also issued a travel warning, asking citizens to avoid “non-essential” travel to the country, hours after Iran launched missile attacks on US-led forces in Iraq.

“In view of the prevailing situation in Iraq, Indian nationals are advised to avoid all non-essential travel to Iraq until further notification,” India's foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Indian nationals residing in Iraq are advised to be alert and may avoid travel within Iraq,” the statement said, adding that the Indian embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Erbil remain operational.

'Consider whether travel is essential,' says Britain

Britain has also warned its nationals to avoid all travel to Iraq, outside the Kurdistan region, and to avoid all but essential travel to Iran following the death of Soleimani.

“Given heightened tensions in the region, the Foreign Office now advise people not to travel to Iraq, with the exception of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and to consider carefully whether it’s essential to travel to Iran,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

“We will keep this under review.”

Philippines orders evacuation of Filipinos

On Wednesday, the Philippine government said that it has ordered the mandatory evacuation of Filipino workers from Iraq while the coast guard said it is sending a vessel to the Middle East to ferry its citizens to safety in case hostilities between the US and Iran worsen.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila said the government has raised the alert level in Iraq to the highest level, requiring Filipinos to leave the country due to escalating security risks.

Filipinos can leave on their own or escorted out with the help of their employers or the Philippine government.

There are an estimated 1,600 Filipinos and their dependents in Iraq, including many who work for US facilities and commercial establishments. President Rodrigo Duterte and top officials have been holding emergency meetings since the weekend to discuss evacuation plans.

Duterte said on Tuesday that he has deployed a special envoy to get assurance from the leaders of Iraq and Iran that Filipinos would be spared in case of any major outbreak of violence.

"Just to get the assurance that my countrymen will have the egress just in case hell breaks loose," Duterte told reporters.

France follows suit

France on Tuesday warned its nationals against traveling to Iran and to Iraq, citing an “extremely volatile” security situation.

The Foreign Ministry has also advised French nationals that could not temporarily leave these countries to be extremely cautious. It is recommending they limit travel within Iran and Iraq and avoid gatherings, the statements said.

Canada advises against travel to Iran

Canada issued a travel warning asking its citizens to avoid "non-essential" travel to Iran, citing the ongoing volatile security situation, the regional threat of "terrorism" and the risk of arbitrary detention.

Canada also asked its citizens to “avoid all travel” to the area within 10 kilometers of Iran's border with Iraq and within 20 kilometres of Iran's border with Afghanistan.