UK urges Britons to leave Tunisia declaring it 'unsafe'

UK urges Britons to leave Tunisia declaring it 'unsafe'
Thousands of British tourists will be flown home from Tunisia after London declares it unsafe for holidays, as Tunisian PM says his country has 'done its best' to protect tourists.
4 min read
10 July, 2015
British tourists made up most of the 38 victims of the Sousse beach massacre [Getty]
Tunisia's prime minister says that his country has done "everything in our power" to protect British and other foreign tourists, as British travellers flock to Tunisian airports under orders from their government to flee amid risks of terror attacks.

Britain on Thursday told all UK tourists to leave Tunisia, saying the North African country hasn't done enough to enhance security, warning that another terror attack is "highly likely".

     We will ring the British prime minister to tell him we have done everything we can to protect all British interests and those of others countries
British tourists made up most of the 38 victims of a massacre at a Tunisian beach resort last month by an Islamic extremist.

Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said early Friday that his government would help evacuate British citizens, and that he would speak to British counterpart David Cameron later in the day about repercussions of the decision. Essid was speaking to Parliament during a debate on security.

"We will ring the British prime minister to tell him we have done everything we can to protect all British interests and those of others countries - that's out duty," Esebsi told a late-night session of parliament.

"Britain is free to take whatever decision it likes - it's a sovereign country - but we too are a sovereign country and we have a position to take."

Essid did not elaborate on what that position might be but he told lawmakers that the British decision would "have repercussions."

The Danish Foreign Ministry also advised its citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to Tunisia, saying there is "a high terror risk."

The ministry on Friday didn't elaborate but Danes traditionally follow Britain when it comes to travel advisories.

Finland's Foreign Ministry also said Friday "there's a possibility of terror acts" in Tunisia but doesn't specifically tell travellers not to go.

However, it added that Tunisian "authorities are not capable of sufficiently guaranteeing security at the tourist resorts."

Tunisia has brought in a raft of new security measures, including arming tourist police, since the attack on June 26.

But the Foreign Office said it did not believe they provided "adequate protection" and advised against all but essential travel.

Within minutes of the advice, tour operators Thomson and First Choice said they had cancelled all flights to Tunisia for the rest of the season, until October 31.

Britain's largest travel association, ABTA, said the 3,000 or so British tourists currently in Tunisia would be flown home as soon as possible.

Danish tour operators immediately stopped flying to the popular destination for Europeans.

Be 'particularly vigilant'

In Paris, foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said France was not urging people to leave.

"Our 'advice to travellers' underlines the terrorist risk in Tunisia and the ongoing threat from jihadist terrorist groups," he said.

"It recommends that French citizens be particularly vigilant. Several regions of the country bordering Algeria and Libya are formally discouraged," he added.

"Aside from Britain and Belgium, our main partners are not discouraging, for the moment, general trips to Tunisia," he said, naming Germany, Spain, Italy and the United States.

A diplomatic source said that a meeting of security experts was planned in Tunis next week, including members of the G7, Spain and Belgium, to help Tunisia reinforce its capacity to protect sensitive places, including tourist sites.

In Dublin, meanwhile, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said the government is "urgently reviewing" its travel advice in light of Britain's move. Three Irish tourists died in the June attack.

Last month's massacre followed one in March, when two extremists gunned down 21 tourists at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis.

The two attacks, claimed by the Islamic State group, have dealt a heavy blow to the tourism industry, which contributes between seven and eight percent of Tunisia's GDP.

The sector accounts for 400,000 jobs, directly and indirectly, and is a key source of foreign revenue for a country where the local currency, the dinar, is non-convertible.

The economic impact of the beach bloodbath, on top of the upheaval following the overthrow four years ago of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, is likely to exceed half a billion dollars in 2015, according to Tourism Minister Selma Elloumi Rekik.