- Health Alert - 6/13/18
- Health Infrastructure Breakdown in Venezuela - 5/15/18
- Security Situation in Israel - 5/10/18
- Update: President Trump's Proposed Travel Ban - 4/10/18
- Cape Town Water Shortage - 3/7/18
- Tensions in the Korean Peninsula - 3/1/18
- Update: U.S.-Turkey Resume Full Visa Services - 12/28/17
- U.S. Recognizes Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel - 12/6/17
- Treasury, Commerce and State Implement Changes to the Cuba Sanctions Rule - 11/30/17
Health Infrastructure Breakdown in Venezuela
On May 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added Venezuela to its Level 3 – Warning list, which means travelers should avoid all nonessential travel to the country. The Level 3 – Warning was issued due to the “outbreak of infectious diseases,” and the lack of “adequate health care” from the country’s public health system. Thousands of cases of measles, diphtheria and malaria have been reported in Venezuela over the past two years.
Along with the breakdown of the medical infrastructure – which includes medicine and medical supplies – Venezuela is also experiencing severe shortages of food, water and electricity. Since essential services are extremely limited in the country, which can lead to unrest, the U.S. Department of State has assigned a Level 3 Travel Advisory (Reconsider Travel) for the country.
As a reminder, Northwestern policy precludes travel to a country with a CDC Level 3 – Warning; however, undergraduate students interested in traveling to such a location may submit a petition for an exception to this policy. Graduate students who wish to travel to a CDC Level 3 – Warning country need to complete the Graduate Student Travel Release form.
Security Situation in Israel
Northwestern’s Office of Global Safety and Security (OGSS) is monitoring the security situation in Israel and, at this time, the tensions with Iran, the protests in Gaza, and the upcoming move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem have not affected daily life in Israel’s major cities. As such, we are confident that upcoming trips to the country can proceed as planned. However, because the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has engaged in military actions against Iranian forces in Syria, we advise that travelers refrain from visiting the Golan Heights area in northern Israel.
Note that the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory remains at Level 2 and, as of this message, the U.S. Embassy maintains normal operations. Moreover, most U.S.-based academic institutions are continuing with their scheduled activities in the country.
Please be aware that Friday afternoons can result in demonstrations and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces, especially in the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif area of Jerusalem’s Old City. To keep up-to-date with the latest security information in the country, we recommend that travelers read the Alerts and Messages page from the U.S. Embassy and the website for Israel’s Home Front Command.
In the event the situation in Israel deteriorates significantly, Northwestern’s international insurance provider has evacuation coverage; however, please note that only GeoBlue can determine whether or not an evacuation will be “covered” under the policy. Click here to read more about evacuations.
Northwestern students, staff and faculty travel to Israel on a routine basis, especially during the summer. We will continue to monitor the situation without being overly reactive to the political environment and we will maintain frequent communication with Northwestern travelers, if necessary. Click here to read more about the university’s travel modification or suspension protocols.
Update: President Trump's Proposed Travel Ban
On April 10, the Trump administration removed Chad from the list of travel ban countries.
Until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the legality of the Executive Order (EO) – which will likely take place by June 2018 – a travel ban to the U.S. remains in place for citizens of Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, North Korea, and Venezuela.
International students and faculty who have the proper visas to work or study in the U.S. are not expected to be affected by the EO.
Cape Town Water Shortage
The Office of Global Safety and Security (OGSS) is closely monitoring the water shortage in Cape Town, South Africa. Although tap water in the city is forecast to run dry in 2019, at this time, the issue is not expected to affect Northwestern’s programs in Cape Town or Stellenbosch.
To assist in water conservation efforts, all Northwestern travelers should plan for reduced access to water. Under Cape Town’s current Level 6B water restrictions, residents and visitors are allotted no more than 13 gallons of water per person per day. However, essential institutions – such as hospitals and waste treatment facilities – will not have to follow the strict water rationing measure.
If “Day Zero” occurs, travelers in the city will have to reduce daily water consumption to 6.5 gallons a day. For travelers not staying at a university or at a hotel in the Central Business District, water will have to be collected from one of 200 water distribution sites. Many of the water stations will be open 24/7, and all will have a significant security presence to maintain order. The average wait time is expected to be one hour.
For a summary of how the Cape Town water shortage alters daily routines, listen to the episode “Countdown to Day Zero” from the podcast Today, Explained.
Tensions in the Korean Peninsula
The Office of Global Safety and Security (OGSS) is monitoring the situation in the Korean Peninsula and we are confident that the safety risk is LOW for current and future Northwestern travel to South Korea and Japan.
Since the beginning of 2018, there has been a decrease in tensions between North Korea and South Korea. The provocations from North Korea that occurred for most of 2017 were alleviated by the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, which saw South and North Korea athletes march together during the Games. Bellicose rhetoric from North Korea was absent during the Olympics. There are also reports that suggest the regime of Kim Jong Un is willing to start a dialogue with the U.S.
Despite the thawing in relations between North and South Korea, it is unclear how Pyongyang will react now that the Olympics have concluded. There is a possibility that Kim Jong Un will resort back to his provocative actions by issuing threatening statements and conducting occasional missile tests in response to U.S. actions in the region.
If the situation returns to pre-Olympic tension levels, OGSS still believes that Northwestern travelers face a low safety risk in destinations such as Seoul and Tokyo based on our regular benchmarking with our health and safety peers at other academic institutions, as well as our contacts at the U.S. Department of State’s Overseas Advisory Council, and our security counterparts at international organizations in the Midwest Analysts’ Roundtable.
When tensions peaked prior to the Olympics, no universities that were surveyed in 2017 reported the cancellation or suspension of travel/programs in the region. Moreover, reports from universities in South Korea indicate that there has not been a drop in foreign student enrollment in recent months. In fact, newly released data from the National Institute for International Education suggests that foreign student enrollment at South Korean universities rose by nearly 19 percent in 2017. During that time, over 2,500 students from the U.S. enrolled at a South Korean school.
Students who study at Seoul’s Yonsei University should be aware that the school has a robust emergency management plan that includes specific buildings that are dedicated as evacuation shelters. Contacts at the university have assured their international partners that the climate in South Korea remains calm and routine. As of this message, we have not received any communication from concerned students or parents.
Responses from numerous corporations, the U.S. Embassy in Seoul and various security assistance providers are that business operations remain normal in South Korea and Japan.
To stay on top of the latest messaging from the U.S. Department of State, Northwestern travelers are encouraged to sign up for the Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP), check the U.S. Embassy in Seoul’s Alerts and Messages page for announcements, and download the Emergency Ready App (Android and Apple) that provides advice from South Korea’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety. Additional information on what to do during an emergency event can be found in the “Emergency Procedures Manual for Foreigners” from the Ministry of Security and Public Administration.
In the event the security climate in the region deteriorates significantly, Northwestern travelers have evacuation coverage if certain tripwires are met. OGSS has worked closely with our security and evacuation vendor – Drum Cussac – to create an evacuation risk matrix.
OGSS will continue to reassess the security environment in the region going forward and act accordingly.
Update: U.S.-Turkey Resume Full Visa Services
On December 28, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara stated that it will allow the full resumption of visa services in Turkey due to diplomatic assurances and improvements with security in the country.
In response, the Embassy of Turkey in Washington, DC announced that it will lift restrictions on visa services for American citizens.
This ends the two-month diplomatic dispute between the two nations that led to the suspension of consular services.
While OGSS does not provide visa procurement services, we are aware that Northwestern has established relationships with Turkish scholars and institutions that require university travel.
U.S. Recognizes Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel
In preparation of the announcement that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem released a Security Message regarding the likelihood of demonstrations in Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank starting on December 6.
Northwestern’s Office of Global Safety and Security (OGSS) advises that all university travelers follow the recommendations issued by the consulate and refrain from traveling to the Old City and the West Bank until tensions have deescalated.
Northwestern travelers scheduled to visit Israel in the coming weeks are reminded to sign up for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive the latest alerts from the embassy and consulate.
The above information has been distributed to all Northwestern students currently based in Israel. OGSS will continue to assess the situation and will release additional updates if necessary.
Treasury, Commerce and State Implement Changes to the Cuba Sanctions Rule
Key policy changes to the Cuba sanctions program are the prohibition of direct financial transactions that disproportionately benefit the Cuban military, intelligence and security services at the expense of the Cuban people, and the adherence to the statutory ban on tourism. According to the U.S. government, the National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) advances U.S. national security and foreign policy interests and those of the Cuban people. Lastly, it clarifies that improvements in the bilateral relationship with the U.S. depend on Cuba’s willingness to improve the lives of the Cuban people. Diplomatic relations and the engagement in the interests of the U.S. and Cuban people will remain the same.
Cuba Restricted List
The Cuba Restricted List – which is overseen by the U.S. Department of State – was established by the NSPM to identify entities and sub-entities under the control of or acting for or on behalf of the Cuban military intelligence or security services or personnel. The Department of State has published a list of 180 entities and sub-entities in which direct financial transactions would benefit the military, intelligence and security services instead of the Cuban people. The 180 entities on the Cuban Restricted List include 83 hotels, 39 military-industrial complexes, and several tourism companies, rum producers, marinas and luxury retailers. There are no new restrictions on air travel to Cuba.
U.S. institutions with educational programs in Cuba are not expected to be impacted by the NSPM, as most travel regulations to Cuba for educational purposes remain the same. Moreover, engagement with the Cuban people continues to be in line with current U.S. policy towards the country. Examples of authorized people-to-people activities include eating at a private restaurant and staying at a private residence. It is recommended that students be accompanied at all times during people-to-people engagements.
Short-term travelers to Cuba should be aware that 83 hotels have been placed on the State Department’s Restricted List. U.S. travelers are not allowed to engage with entities on the Restricted List.
U.S. universities are required to have a letter of support that states the purpose of the educational trip to Cuba. A letter of support is also necessary from a university if a student is traveling to Cuba for an internship. Faculty and staff on a consortium-run program have to be from an institution that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
Additional information on the changes to the Cuba sanctions rule can be found on the Treasury Department's website.