On Oct. 3, the U.S. State Department issued a Travel Alert for Europe. The government states that intelligence indicates al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations “continue to plan terrorist attacks” on Europe. This warning is not very helpful for people traveling in Europe since it does not mention a specific country or region, but does serve as a reminder for travelers to remain vigilant and to continue to be cautious and avoid complacency while abroad.
A Travel Alert is not the same as a Travel Warning. Travel Warnings are issued when a nation or region becomes unsafe and unstable, and may indicate that U.S. travelers in the region will have less access to assistance from the government than they can expect under normal circumstances. Travel Alerts are warnings of a potential security threat and are generally shorter-term. The Travel Alert on Europe will expire on Jan. 31, 2011 if it is not renewed.
Many of our friends and fellow Rollins students study abroad each semester. What impact does the Travel Alert have on them?
Giselda Beaudin, director of International Programs, states that this semester 112 Rollins students are studying abroad through Rollins Programs as well as affiliate and non-affiliate programs in Britain, France, Italy, Prague and Spain. She has e-mailed the students, advising them of the alert and including quotes from the State Department website, The New York Times and the United Kingdom’s Guardian. Beaudin also warned students to be especially cautious in tourist areas or public transport and to always carry their emergency contact info with them.
No student, so far, has replied to the e-mail, and only one parent has called to inquire about what would happen if students had to return to the U.S. before the end of the semester. Such a return would disrupt students’ education, and Rollins would have to find ways for the students to finish the semester with the credits the students need, but safety does come first and Rollins will return students if they are in danger. For Rollins affiliate programs, the affiliate institution would make the decision to send students home. Students’ travel insurance does cover them for political evacuation. Unless an incident occurs, the Travel Alert will not affect the spring programs.
The State Department website is not very specific about the threat or if the government will be able to eliminate it, but it reassures citizens that: “We continue to work closely with our European allies on the threat from international terrorism, including al-Qa’ida. Information is routinely shared between the U.S. and our key partners to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and take action against potential operatives, and strengthen our defenses against potential threats.”
Besides taking “every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt safety measures to protect themselves when traveling,” the State Department suggests for travelers to register their travel plans with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy.
The Alert can be found at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_5171.html. The Web page has links and numbers to other government resources and contacts. The Government travel tips are at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/tips_1232.html.