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Safety Updates

U.S. Department of State Worldwide Caution 2019

Terrorist attacks, political violence (such as demonstrations), criminal activities, and other security incidents can take place abroad at any time without warning. The U.S. Department of State strongly encourages travelers to always maintain a high level of vigilance and have good situational awareness whenever traveling abroad. Always consult the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisories (country specific) as well as the travel information pages.

The U.S. Department of State provides travelers with general information regarding terrorist activities, political violence, and criminal activity that occur abroad, along with recommendations on how to prepare, receive information on breaking security events, and ensure that travelers can be contacted in an emergency. U.S. government facilities worldwide are always actively monitoring any potential security threats, and as a result may temporarily close or suspend public services (such as embassies) to assess threats. However, U.S. embassies and consulates will still do everything they can to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. Travelers are encouraged to monitor the local news and stay in contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Terrorist groups are most likely to target:

High-profile and well-populated events such as sporting events, political rallies, demonstrations/protests, holiday events, celebratory gatherings, etc.
Hotels, clubs, bars, and restaurants
Places of worship
Shopping malls/markets
Popular tourist sites
Public transportation systems

It is strongly recommended that all travelers enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make contact easier in an emergency. The U.S. Department of State conveys important information about terrorist threats, security incidents, planned demonstrations, natural disasters, and other important events through these security messages. 

In an emergency, always contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, or call: 1 (888) 407-4747 (toll-free in the U.S. and Canada) or 1 (202) 501-444 from other countries.

UTSA students traveling on university-related business should enroll with International SOS (ISOS) to get alerts for global security, safety, and health concerns for the countries they are traveling to. 

*Source UT Austin Risk and Safety

Holiday Season 2019

As the holiday season approaches, security measures in many countries throughout the world, particularly in Europe, have heightened due to potential threats from multinational terrorist organizations and individuals. These terrorist threats often focus on common tourist locations such as Christmas holiday markets, shopping malls, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, transportation centers, and other places frequented by Westerners. Additionally, crime is likely to increase during the holidays, so travelers should remain vigilant at all times, particularly in high-profile locations such as hotels and airports. 

Travel Advice
•    Stay extra vigilant at any holiday festivals or events, places of worship, and locations with large crowds.
•    Have a personal security plan in place.
•    Always be aware of your surroundings.
•    Monitor local media for any updates.
•    Be prepared for an increased police presence around busy tourist areas. Follow all official directives and always carry around some form of identification.
•    Familiarize yourself with the crime risk areas of your destination.
•    Always maintain a low profile. Avoid any excessive displays of wealth by only carrying small amounts of cash and leaving valuables at home.
•    Register with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive important updates from the U.S. Embassy in your country.

UTSA travelers are encouraged to enroll with International SOS (ISOS) to get alerts for global security, safety, and health concerns for the countries they are traveling to. Simply go to the UT Global Risk and Safety (GRS) page and follow the directions under “Before You Leave”, and click on “Email Subscriptions” at the left of the ISOS website.

If you are abroad and need immediate assistance, you can always call International SOS at 001-215-942-8059 (consult if you have difficulties) or text them through their Assistance App. You can also call UTSA Police Department at 001-210-458-4911. 
*Source UT Austin Risk and Safety

Nowruz, Holy Week, Passover, and Easter

April 19-27, 2019

The spring is known for bright colors and wonderful holidays that are filled with cultural and religious traditions, including Nowruz, Holy Week, Passover, and Easter. These are widely celebrated by millions of people all over the world. 

Nowruz (Nevruz) is a festival commonly recognized as the Kurdish and Persian New Year and a celebration marking the beginning of spring on March 21. Over 75 million people in multiple countries, including Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, and Turkey, will be enjoying the festivities and celebrating the New Year.

Public Nowruz (Nevruz) observances typically involve roadside bonfires in addition to large celebrations. Nowruz has political as well as social connotations, and in some recent years has been a flashpoint for spontaneous demonstrations. 

Demonstrations and large events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. Avoid political gatherings, protests, and demonstrations and to exercise caution if you are in the vicinity. Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings and local events, monitor local news stations for updates, and follow local authority instructions.

Travel Advice for Nowruz
  • Avoid all Nowruz-related gatherings as a standard security precaution.
  • The potential presence of large crowds and attendant security measures during Nowruz gatherings are likely to cause localized travel delays. Plan journeys avoiding all such events to minimize inconvenience, and keep phones charged so that you are able to maintain communication with others.
  • Demonstrations and large events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. Avoid political gatherings, protests, and demonstrations and to exercise caution if you are in the vicinity. Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings and local events, monitor local news stations for updates, and follow any directives issued by authorities.

Holy Week
Holy Week is the week preceding Easter. In the West, it is the last week of Lent and includes Palm Sunday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It does not include Easter Sunday. Multiple countries, including Brazil, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Philippines and Spain, observe this Holy Week.  For pictures of some country traditions, please see, The Guardian.  This year Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, March 25 and concludes on Saturday, March 31.

Passover is the major Jewish holiday that commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, and lasts seven or eight days. This year, Passover begins on Friday, March 30 and ends Saturday, April 07. 

If planning travel to Israel, individuals should expect increased security in areas as tens of thousands of people are expected to visit Jerusalem, particularly the Old City’s Western Wall during the Jewish Passover holiday. Increased measures are liable to include a visible increase in police and military force personnel, as well as the closure of roads and of border crossings between Israel and the West Bank (Palestinian Territories).

Easter, also called Pascha, is a Christian holy day that celebrates the day it is believed Christ was resurrected from the dead. Easter and the holidays that are related to it do not have a fixed date in the Gregorian or Julian calendars, instead the date is determined on the lunisolar calendar, similar to the Hebrew calendar. It is celebrated by many countries and millions of people worldwide. This year, Easter will fall on Sunday, April 1.

Travel advice for Holy Week, Passover, and Easter
  • Expect increased security and carry photographic identification at all times for security checkpoints and spot-checks; comply with all instructions issued by the security forces.
  • Report any suspicious package or behavior to the security forces.
  • Be cognizant of your surroundings. Remain alert and leave an area at the first sign of unrest.
  • Exercise caution when using public transport, especially when waiting at bus stops, rail/subway stations or in other crowded public areas.
  • Exercise caution in large groups. If visiting a popular attraction, try to minimize the amount of time spent there.
  • Do not discuss political issues or situations with strangers, as this may provoke a hostile reaction.
  • Keep your phone charged, with the appropriate amount of credit, and on you at all times. In the event of a situation that affects you, the university will be reaching out. Many times a reply is required so that we can verify your safety or arrange resources to assist you.
  • Monitor emails and local news sources for security alerts on any developments in the country or area you are visiting.

China’s Communist Party Congress and Internet Censorship

October 13, 2017, 7:00 am - China’s top officials with gather in Beijing 18 – 31 October for the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  New members of the country’s most important decision-making body—the Politburo Standing Committee—will be announced, including a possible candidate to replace party leader Xi Jinping in 2022 (At the last gathering in November 2012, Xi Jinping established himself as China’s leader).  

Prior the party congress, security agents have started one of the most severe crackdowns in decades, which has a number of activists leaving Beijing for the duration of the summit, and moderate activists have been told not to give interviews to foreign journalists. (The Guardian). During China’s National Party Congress, censorship is typically heightened.

Internet Censorship

In a directive issued summer 2017, the state-controlled association that polices China’s digital media sector set out 68 categories of material that should be censored. The new restrictions — which expanded and updated a set of prohibitions issued five years ago — reflect an ambitious effort by President Xi Jinping’s government to impose discipline and rein in the web.  (NY Times) 

On September 7, the Cyber Administration of China published a new set of regulations for “internet group information service management” that went into effect on October 8. The rules emphasize the responsibility of managers and service providers to enforce official content restrictions and report violators to “the relevant authorities.”  With these restrictions, there is the potential for large numbers of ordinary internet users and website owners to face targeted censorship, arrest, and criminal prosecution that sets this year’s preparations apart from past congresses. The legal, technological, and administrative tools at the CCP’s disposal in 2017 are significantly more powerful than in 2012, the year of the last leadership rotation. These tools will survive long after the event concludes. (FreedomHouse)

Travelers who use Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and/or Gmail will need to seek alternative ways of communicating while in China. In late September 2017, users in mainland China reported disruptions in the popular communication app, WhatsApp. Other websites and social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other foreign media have been blocked for a number of years in China. The WhatsApp disruptions and subsequent blockage is believed to be pre-emptive ahead of the party congress. (South China Morning Post)

Also ahead of the CCP, Airbnb has removed listings in Beijing due to “external circumstances” throughout the month of October. Other short-term rentals via local services (i.e. and are unavailable during the same time period. (Straits Times)

Travel Advice
  • Allow time for important journeys around central Beijing, particularly around the Great Hall of the People.
  • While copies of residence permits and the identification and visa page of passports should be accepted in most cases, carrying original personal identification papers (always accepted) will expedite passage through security checkpoints. A card in Chinese characters, not Romanized form, is helpful.
  • Members flying to Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) should contact the airport directly or consult its website to confirm schedules before setting out due to potential for delays during the party congress.
  • Skype currently works. WeChat will not be restricted, but it is forbidden to type sensitive words.
  • Avoid sensitive topics of discussion, including human rights, democratization, Tibet, Taiwan, minority rights and religious freedom. Avoid any protests as a standard precaution. Do not take photographs of demonstrators or officials.


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