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Travel & living abroad
Last updated at 17:06 (UK time) 15 Apr 2010

Terrorism

We constantly review the threat of international terrorism to advise UK citizens travelling and living abroad.

Understand threat levels, learn how to minimise the risk, and what to do in a biological or chemical attack.

We have also have services to help keep UK businesses safe.

How do we measure the risk of terrorism in each country?

Our country travel advice pages have a terrorism section after the summary. We use four levels of terrorist threat:

A high threat from terrorism

A high level of known terrorist activity

A general threat from terrorism

Some level of known terrorist activity

An underlying threat from terrorism

A low level of known terrorist activity 

A low threat from terrorism

No or limited known terrorist activity

We use several sources to constantly reassess the threat level:

  • Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC)
  • security and intelligence agencies
  • open source and media reporting
  • local knowledge
  • reports from our embassies
  • diplomatic reports

Remember: we do not warn against travel to every country where there is a risk of terrorists operating.

Minimise the risk of terrorism when you’re abroad

You can take a number of common sense precautions to minimise the risk of being caught up in terrorism when you’re abroad:

  • regularly check our travel advice for the country you are visiting – subscribe to our email alerts
  • watch and read news about the country and region
  • register with the local British Embassy or Consulate when you arrive
  • be vigilant in public areas and places that attract foreigners and Westerners - embassies, hotels, restaurants, bars and businesses
  • look out for anything suspicious. Report it to the local police immediately – many terrorist attacks are foiled by the vigilance of ordinary people
  • try to avoid routines that make you an easier target – vary the time and route of your regular journeys.

What do we class as terrorism?

Terrorist attacks include:

  • suicide operations
  • hijackings 
  • bombings 
  • kidnappings 
  • shootings 
  • attacks on commercial aircraft and ships 
  • use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials.

 Chemical and Biological agents

Chemical agents are natural or manufactured chemicals such as chlorine and mustard gas. Chemical agents are mostly liquids with poisonous vapours, but some are solids that can be released as a powder or aerosol.

Biological agents are germs which cause natural but rare diseases, such as smallpox or anthrax. They’re usually released from an aerosol.

What to do in a chemical or biological incident

  • move away from the immediate area quickly but calmly
  • if you are underground, return to ground level as most chemicals are heavier than air and sink downwards
  • alert the emergency services if they are not already at the scene
  • make yourself known to the emergency staff and follow their instructions
  • don’t leave the scene until the emergency services tell you to – you may need to be decontaminated to avoid spreading it to other people.

What are the effects of a chemical or biological attack?

This depends on the chemical or biological agent used. Symptoms can develop within seconds or over months.

Chemical attacks can cause breathing difficulties, eye and skin irritation, blisters, headaches, nausea and convulsions. The time it takes for symptoms to develop depends on the chemical and on its concentration, but unlike biological agents, chemical agents are not infectious.

The symptoms of biological agents vary with each disease. They are the same as when the diseases are caught naturally. Antibiotics can be used to treat most biological agent diseases. The sooner they are taken, the more effective they will be.

UK policy on international terrorism

The fight against global terrorism is one of our key objectives.

UK policy on kidnap and ransoms

British nationals should be aware that the long-standing policy of the UK Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers, including ransom payments as the UK Government considers that this increases the risk of further hostage taking.

Exceptional Assistance Measures for Victims of Terrorist Incidents Overseas

A ministerial statement (Word doc) on 2 June 2008 set out the financial assistance we may be able to offer in exceptional circumstances to British nationals affected by terrorist incidents overseas.