15 Jun 2014

Warnings issued to NZers on Iraq

2:32 pm on 15 June 2014

New Zealanders living and travelling in Iraq are being warned of an extreme risk to their security.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued the warning on Sunday. It has advised against all travel to Iraq and said those New Zealanders in Iraq who are concerned for their safety, should leave.

The number of New Zealanders in Iraq who have notified the Ministry has risen to 34 in recent days.

The Ministry said New Zealanders face the threat of terrorism and a significant risk of kidnapping and most of Iraq is under the highest possible alert level.

New Zealanders who decide to travel to Iraq against the ministry's advice are urged to take personal security protection measures.

The ministry recommends travellers consult a reputable security company with experience in Iraq for advice on security arrangements.

But it warns that while it may mitigate the risks it cannot eliminate them entirely.

Late last week, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said New Zealand was deeply concerned about the serious deterioration of security in Iraq.

Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - or ISIS - have launched lightening attacks across much of northern and central Iraq, and have taken major cities such as Mosul and Tikrit.

They have been stopped at the city of Samarra, about 100km from Baghdad but have promised to advance on the Iraqi capital.

NZ should be ready to help

The Labour Party says New Zealand should be ready to offer aid to Iraq, which is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis with up to 500,000 people fleeing their homes.

Labour's foreign affairs spokesperson, David Shearer told TVNZ that New Zealand could have a role in offering aid.

He said it would be ridiculous for the United Nations or the United States to send ground troops into Iraq.