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Travel advice for Syria downgraded: why?

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The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs (to 22 September 2008)

The Federal Government needs to explain why it has decreased the level of advice for Australian tourists travelling to Syria from 'Reconsider your need to travel' to 'High degree of caution' at the same time as other countries are issuing new warnings and Syria itself has recently increased security levels, the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Andrew Robb AO MP, said today.

''I am surprised that the level of travel advice for Syria has been downgraded particularly as the advice still contains phrases such as 'high threat of terrorist attack and unpredictable security environment in the region' and 'the unpredictable security situation'.

''This comes after the recent Arab League Summit when Syria themselves placed government buildings, busy avenues, streets, hotels and public places in Damascus under heavy surveillance by police and security agents and restricted air traffic at the Damascus international airport.

''I also note that Israel has recently warned their citizens to be 'more alert' and has classed Syria as 'high risk'. The US State Department is also advising US citizens to 'thoroughly consider the risks before travel to Syria'. This level of advice has been constant for more than six months.

''The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Smith, needs to assure travellers that he believes the situation in Syria has improved enough for travel warnings to be downgraded'', Mr Robb said.