Tunisia urges British government to relax travel warnings

Tunisia urges British government to relax travel warnings

Officials from Tunisia have urged the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office to relax travel advice warning against all but essential travel to the destination.

The move comes following a near total cessation of travel following the deaths of 30 British holidaymakers in the Mediterranean town of Sousse during a terror attack last year. 

The FCO currently advises against all travel to the Chaambi Mountain National Park area, the Tunisia-Algeria border crossing points at Ghardimaou, Hazoua and Sakiet Sidi Youssef, and the militarized zone south of, but not including, the towns of El Borma and Dhehiba.

At the same time, the FCO advise against all but essential travel to the rest of Tunisia.

However, the Tunisian ambassador to the UK has argued British government should take into account security improvements since last year.

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In an interview with the BBC, ambassador Nabil Ammar, said there was now a gap between the “perception of the level of security, and the real security on the ground”.

He added: “Every week terrorist cells are dismantled.

“Terrorists are arrested or neutralised.

“This should give a positive image, not a negative one.

“If you take statistics, you have much less chance to die in Tunisia or to have any harm in Tunisia than so many countries close to us.”

Figures from the Tunisian Tourist Board show a fall of more than 90 per cent in UK visitors for the first four months of this year compared with the similar period a year ago.

Between January and April 2015, Tunisia saw 84,225 visitors from the UK, but just 5,980 in the first four months of this year.

A state of emergency remains in effect in Tunisia, imposed after a suicide attack on a police bus on November 24th, 2015.

It has been extended a number of times.

On March 22nd it was extended for a further three months, to June 22nd, 2016.

“The threat from terrorism in Tunisia is high,” warns the FCO.

“Further attacks remain highly likely, including against foreigners.

“Security forces remain on a high state of alert in Tunis and other locations.

“You should be vigilant, avoid crowded places and follow the advice of the Tunisian security authorities and your travel company, if you have one.”

Since the terrorist attack in Sousse in June 2015, the FCO has been working closely with the Tunisian authorities to investigate the attack and the wider threat from terrorist groups in Tunisia.

Although there has been good co-operation from the Tunisian government, including putting in place additional security measures, the intelligence and threat picture has developed considerably, reinforcing the FCO view that a further terrorist attack is “highly likely”.

“On balance, we do not believe the mitigation measures in place provide adequate protection for British tourists in Tunisia at the present time,” added the FCO in a statement.