الخميس , مايو 20 2021

UK urges Britons to leave Tunisia

Police on the beach in Sousse

All British nationals are being urged to leave Tunisia because “a further terrorist attack is highly likely”, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says.

Thirty Britons were among 38 tourists killed in an attack there last month.

The Foreign Office estimates 2,500 to 3,000 UK tourists are in Tunisia and a few hundred British residents.

It is advising against all non-essential travel to Tunisia, and some travel firms are repatriating their British staff.

‘More work needed’

The FCO said that although the Tunisian authorities have put in place more security measures, these do not “provide adequate protection for British tourists”.

It said in its updated advice that tour operators were arranging additional flights back to the UK.

Britons are urged to get in touch with their tour operators to plan their return, with those travelling independently advised to return on commercial flights.

Tunisia declared a state of emergency after the 26 June attack in the popular resort of Port El Kantaoui, just north of Sousse.

Witnesses described how the gunman, identified as Tunisian student Seifeddine Rezgui, opened fire at tourists on sunloungers outside the five-star Hotel Rui Imperial Marhaba.

Plans to build a wall along Tunisia’s border with Libya to counter the threat from militants were announced earlier this week.

Mr Hammond said: “While we do not have any information suggesting a specific or imminent threat, since the attack in Sousse the intelligence and threat picture has developed considerably, leading us to the view that a further terrorist attack is highly likely.”

He went on: “The Tunisian investigation into those behind the Sousse attack, and that on the Bardo Museum earlier this year, is on-going and the Tunisians have made clear they want to track down further individuals who they suspect may have links to this attack.

“Furthermore, we have now completed an assessment of the security measures in tourist areas and while we are working with the Tunisian authorities to further strengthen those measures, we judge that more work is needed to effectively protect tourists from the terrorist threat.

“Taking all these factors together, we judge that it is right and prudent to make this change today.”


Thirty of the victims of the 26 June attack were British

The Association of British Travel Agents said those due to travel to Tunisia should contact the company they booked through.

Travelling to Tunisia now would be likely to invalidate travel insurance policies, but most policies will provide cover for those currently in the country, it added.

A spokesman said: “Those with holidays booked within the next 48 hours to Tunisia are advised to contact your travel company to discuss available options. If you have booked a package you will be entitled to a refund or alternative holiday.”

The association said that very low numbers of British tourists were currently in Tunisia, following the Sousse attack; 25,000 are usually expected at this time of year.

Background and analysis

Thomas Cook has cancelled all its bookings to Tunisia up until the end of October, saying the “safety and well-being” of its customers were its key concern.

“In response to the recent change in FCO advice we have taken this decision to bring all Thomas Cook customers back to the UK as soon as we can using third party carriers and on our 10 scheduled flights over the weekend,” a spokesman said. “Thomas Cook is strongly advising its guests in the country to return on these flights.”

The holiday firm is sending specialist assistance teams to support its customers and bring them back to the UK “as soon as possible”.

Thomson and First Choice staff working in Tunisia are being returned home within the next 24 hours “as a precautionary measure”, the companies said.

Monarch Airlines said it would repatriate all customers in resorts “back to the UK as soon as possible” and flights have been organised to take them out of Tunisia by this weekend.

A spokesman said the airline is cancelling all flights to Enfidha [an airport near Sousse] for the rest of the summer season with “immediate effect”.

All customers who have already booked to travel there will get a full refund or credit or they may be able to change their destination.

Mr Hammond said the situation would be kept “under close review” in the coming weeks and that the UK government would work with Tunisia “to further understand the threat and to strengthen their security response to it”.

He added: “Earlier this afternoon I spoke to the Tunisian Prime Minister and underlined our commitment to working with Tunisia to help them tackle this threat and to support their efforts to develop both their economy and their democracy.”

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