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Egypt travel restrictions lifted with caution

With unrest in Egypt stabilizing, University travel to the country will soon resume.

The International Travel Oversight Committee decided to lift travel restrictions to all of Egypt March 2, allowing programs in the region like DukeEngage Cairo to continue as previously planned. The committee, which sets travel policy for initiatives like DukeEngage and Duke-sponsored study abroad programs, announced Feb. 3 a decision to freeze all travel to Egypt in light of the political turmoil and unrest that erupted throughout North Africa and the Middle East that started this January.

“We are very pleased and not surprised [by the decision] because of the termination of [former Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak’s regime. We knew it was a matter of time,” said Mbaye Lo, leader of DukeEngage Cairo and assistant professor of the practice for Asian and Middle Eastern studies.

The committee’s decision came with two caveats, said Christy Michels, Duke international travel policy administrator and manager for the global administration support. Before traveling to Egypt, ITOC will require students to register with the University and have a plan for leaving the country in case of emergency.

Additionally, ITOC will continue to monitor the situation in Egypt and reserves the right to reinstate the travel suspension if the committee believes the country is unsafe for students.

When reevaluating the restrictions, ITOC reviewed briefings from the U.S. State Department, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom regarding the events in Egypt, Michels said. The committee also consulted International SOS, the insurance company Duke uses for overseas travel.

Because travel restrictions have been lifted, the DukeEngage Cairo program will officially commence this summer. Lo said despite the restrictions, participants had continued making preparations for traveling to Egypt this summer by establishing programs and planning activities.

“We are currently joining with American University in Cairo, a partner in DukeEngage Cairo, to set up a civic engagement program and act upon the mission of DukeEngage,” Lo said.

DukeEngage administrators have remained in close contact with students throughout the duration of the protests in Egypt, said Kelly Jarrett, senior program coordinator at the Duke Islamic Studies Center. If ITOC had decided to uphold the travel restrictions, there would not be a replacement program available for DukeEngage Cairo participants.

“Students had been watching the situation [in Egypt] very carefully because they had been very excited about being part of and witnessing the political and cultural change occurring in Egypt,” Jarrett said.

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