AUSTRALIANS WARNED AWAY FROM SOLOMON ISLANDS

News Release

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Canberra, Australia March 15, 2007

This advice has been reviewed and reissued. It contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and Security: Crime (significant rise in violent crime in East Honiara). The overall level of the advice for the Solomon Islands has not changed.

Summary

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the Solomon Islands at this time because of the uncertain security situation and ongoing political tensions. There is potential for a rapid deterioration in the security environment. Australians may be at particular risk and could become victims of violence.

If you do decide to travel to the Solomon Islands, you should exercise extreme caution. Australians in the Solomon Islands, particularly in Honiara, should maintain a high level of personal security awareness and closely monitor the media and other local information sources for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Staff of the Australian High Commission and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) have been advised to take additional practical security measures, including exercising a high degree of personal security in their residences and to avoid walking, running or cycling after dark or in the early hours of the morning in Honiara.

You should avoid protests and large gatherings as they may turn violent. Such events could become catalysts for violence and civil disorder, which may be directed at Australian interests. Violent disturbances could also occur following a possible parliamentary motion of no-confidence.

There remain criminal elements within the community, some of whom have access to firearms. We continue to receive information suggesting that some of these may be encouraging criminal activity and acts of violence targeting RAMSI and the expatriate civilian community for political purposes. There have been threats of violence in recent months directed at the Australian High Commission.

There has been a significant rise in criminal activity in recent months in and around East Honiara, particularly the Burns Creek area and the nearby Ranadi industrial centre.

Because of the uncertain security situation, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us, so we can contact you in an emergency.

Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.

Civil Unrest / Political Tension

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the Solomon Islands at this time because of the uncertain security situation and ongoing political tensions. There is potential for a rapid deterioration in the security environment. Australians may be at particular risk and could become victims of violence.

Australians in the Solomon Islands, particularly in Honiara, should maintain a high level of personal security awareness and closely monitor the media and other local information sources for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Some elements of the security situation remain fluid after significant civil unrest and allegedly politically-motivated violence in Honiara in mid-April 2006.

You should avoid protests and large gatherings as they may turn violent. Such events could become catalysts for violence and civil disorder, which may be directed at Australian interests.

There remains some potential for further ethnically-targeted violence.

Crime

There remain criminal elements within the community, some of whom have access to firearms. We continue to receive information suggesting that some of these may be encouraging criminal activity and acts of violence targeting RAMSI and the expatriate civilian community for political purposes. Australians may be at particular risk. There have been threats of violence directed at the Australian High Commission in recent months.

An AFP officer was shot dead in Honiara in December 2004 in an incident specifically targeting a RAMSI police vehicle. There have been some continuing isolated incidents of stoning of police vehicles. Expatriate motorists should be wary of such incidents, particularly at night.

Solomon Islands is also subject to isolated incidents of drunken behaviour.

There has been a significant rise in violent criminal activity in recent months in and around East Honiara, particularly the Burns Creek area and the nearby Ranadi industrial centre. Petty and street crime is also on the increase, particularly in Honiara. House and vehicle break-ins occur, with expatriates particularly targeted. Some episodes have involved violence, including rape, and the use or threatened use of knives, rocks and sticks.

Isolated incidents of harassment of expatriates have increased in Honiara since the civil disorder in April 2006, for the most part associated with alcohol and from fringe elements within the community. Staff of the Australian High Commission and RAMSI have been advised to take additional practical security measures, including exercising a high degree of personal security in their residences and to avoid walking, running or cycling after dark or in the early hours of the morning in Honiara.

Local Travel

If you are planning to travel outside Honiara, to rural Guadalcanal, Malaita and other provinces, you should contact the High Commission for an update on the security situation prior to travel.

You should consider taking precautions, such as providing your own life-jackets, when travelling by sea as safety regulations are not always strictly applied. Passenger ferry and flight services throughout the Solomon Islands are routinely subject to change at short notice.

Crocodiles are native to parts of the Solomon Islands, including in waters close to Honiara. Local advice should be sought before entering unfamiliar waters.

Airline Safety

From 31 March 2007, passengers on international flights to and from Australia will only be allowed to carry a small amount of liquids, (including aerosols and gels) in their carry-on baggage. You can find out more information at the Department of Transport and Regional Services website.

If you have concerns about the safety standards of a particular airline or aircraft, we recommend you research the airline or aircraft through organisations such as the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The Department of Transport and Regional Services has published fact sheets on security for air travellers. When staff at Australia's overseas missions are provided advice not to use particular airlines due to safety concerns this will be included in travel advice.

The European Union has published a list of airlines that are subject to operating bans or restrictions within the Union. The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through its foreign assessment program focuses on a country's ability, not the individual airline, to adhere to international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance established by ICAO.

Natural Disasters

Solomon Islands is subject to earthquakes, volcanic activity, tidal waves and cyclones. The island of Savo, 35 kilometres North West of Honiara, is a cyclically active volcano. The cyclone season is from November to April.

Solomon Island authorities provide advice of any impending natural disaster threat through local media, radio and television.

Information on severe weather is available from the World Meteorological Organisation Severe Weather Information Centre, Asia-Pacific Disaster Alerts or the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

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.

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Wildlife Watching

Australians are strongly advised to maintain safe and legal approach distance when observing wildlife. You should use only reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.

Money and Valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways of accessing your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques and cash. Check with your bank whether your ATM card will work overseas.

Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

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. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Since 1 July 2005, Australians have been required to pay an additional fee to have their passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

For Parents

If you are planning on placing your children in schools or childcare facilities overseas we encourage you to research the standards of security, care and staff training within those establishments. You should exercise the same precautions you would take before placing children into schools or childcare facilities in Australia.

Ideas on how to select childcare providers are available from the smartraveller Children's Issues page, Child Wise and the National Childcare Accreditation Council.

Local Laws

When you are in Solomon Islands, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Homosexual acts (by either sex) are illegal and penalties include jail sentences.

It is illegal to import or possess pornographic material. Offenders may be fined.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 17 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in sexual activity with children under 16 while outside of Australia.

Local customs

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Solomon Islands and you should take care not to offend.

Information for Dual Nationals

Solomon Islands does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Solomon Islands dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Our Travel Information for Dual Nationals brochure provides further information for dual nationals.

Entry and Exit Requirements

Visa conditions change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Solomon Islands for the most up to date information.

Health Issues

We strongly recommend that, before you depart you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs. 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, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel.

Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our 'Travelling Well' brochure also provides useful tips for travelling with medicines and staying healthy while travelling overseas.

Medical facilities in Solomon Islands are very limited, with medical services in rural areas generally unavailable.

Rescue and emergency services are not nearly as comprehensive as in Australia. Evacuations are generally required in cases of serious illness or accident. Medical evacuations from Solomon Islands to Australia can cost upwards of AUD40, 000.

The Divers Alert Network (DAN) can provide information on diving safety. There is now a hyperbaric (decompression) chamber in Honiara and registered dive operators can provide advice on the access arrangements.

Malaria occurs throughout the year in most areas of Solomon Islands. We recommend you take prophylaxis against malaria and use an insect repellent at all times. Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, tuberculosis, filariasis and sexually transmitted infections) are prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before travelling. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Ciguatera poisoning from eating reef fish can be a hazard. For more information on ciguatera poisoning see Queensland Health's fact sheet.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has confirmed cases of avian influenza in birds in a number of countries throughout the world. For a list of these countries, visit the OIE website. For information on our advice to Australians on how to reduce the risk of infection and on Australian Government precautions see our travel bulletin on avian influenza.

Where to Get Help

In Solomon Islands, you can obtain consular assistance from the:

Australian High Commission Cnr Hibiscus Ave and Mud Alley Honiara Telephone (677) 21 561.

If you are travelling to Solomon Islands, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to 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.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

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