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New Istanbul Travel Warning: How to Respond?

On Saturday October 29, the US State Department revised their Travel Warning for Istanbul, Turkey reflecting the ordered departure of family members of those assigned to the US consulate in the city.  How should organizations with operations in or travel to Istanbul respond to this latest twist in the security environment in Turkey’s largest city? While there is no single “right” answer, developments like this revised Travel Warning provide a “trigger or tripwire” that should prompt organizations to relook at security measures and evaluate the impact on activities.

The often general nature of State Department travel guidance sometimes leaves organizations scratching their heads on how to respond. In this case, however, the warning attributes the decision to remove dependents to “security information indicating extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts to attack U.S. citizens in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent.”  The ordered — not voluntary — departure of dependents is a significant step in reducing the official US Government risk profile in the city.

Given the nature of this risk, organizations with travel to or operations in Istanbul should review current activities and security posture with their travel risk management company, security providers and in-house resources.  Some considerations may include:

  • Limiting or ceasing travel to/through Istanbul
  • Reducing dependents and/or staff in country
  • Rescheduling or relocating large scale events or activities planned in the city
  • Reviewing security measures in place for personnel and facilities in the city including access control, secure transportation, communications procedures/resources, etc.
  • Tracking travelers both to Istanbul and within the city to help provide active guidance in the event of increased threats or incidents
  • Refreshing emergency response plans at both the local and HQ level

For more information on the situation in Istanbul, OSAC members should check out Departure Orders and the Terrorism Risk in Istanbul.

Responses to events like the withdrawal of US consulate family members in Istanbul will vary based risk profile, security measures in place, etc. However, it’s essential to evaluate how these types of events impact on travel risk management in order to meet duty of obligations for staff and other travelers.