News

Government expected to advise against travelling to Tunisia ahead of "imminent attack"

NewsBy Shuki Byrne
Threat: The foreign office believes another terrorist attack is "highly likely"
Threat: The foreign office believes another terrorist attack is "highly likely"

The Foreign Office in the UK is advising British tourists against all but essential travel to Tunisia, and the Irish government is expected to issue the same advice.

The initial warning was issued by the British Foreign Office today ahead of what authorities believe is an imminent attack.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it is "urgently reviewing its travel advice in consultation with the appropriate agencies." It is expected they will issue the same warning as the UK. 

An update on the British Foreign Office page advises tourists currently in Tunisia to leave immediately by commercial means. 

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:

  • the Chaambi Mountain National Park area
  • the Tunisia-Algeria border crossing points at Ghardimaou, Hazoua and Sakiet Sidi Youssef
  • the militarized zone south of, but not including, the towns of El Borma and Dhehiba
  • within 5km of the Libya border area from north of Dhehiba up to but not including the Ras Ajdir border crossing

"The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the rest of Tunisia.

"If you’re in Tunisia and you don’t have an essential need to remain you should leave by commercial means.

"Tour operators are arranging additional flights and will be organising departures for their customers. If you’re travelling with a tour operator, you should contact your tour operator’s representative in the first instance."

Tour operators are arranging extra flights to ensure holidaymakers can leave, the government said.

The Irish government was expected to issue the same warning this evening or tomorrow in light of the decision by the British Foreign Office. 

Speaking today, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said ISIS were trying to undermine a flourishing country. 

"ISIS is trying to undermine the emergence of a pluralistic society in Tunisia, and by killing tourists, to undermine the Tunisian economy in the hope of creating hardship and instability.

"We need to strengthen Tunisia’s democracy and security, and to ensure that the safety of our citizens is not at risk from further terrorists."

Three Irish people and 30 Britons were killed in the terrorist attack in Sousse last month by extremists aligned with ISIS. Another attack, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said, was "highly likely". 

Thousands of Irish and British holidaymakers make their way to Tunisia every year. It is believed there are about 3,000 British and Irish tourists currently in the country. 

The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) urged people due to travel to Tunisia to contact the company they booked through.

""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."

Travel companies are also bringing their employees and reps home within the next 24 hours. 

Thomas Cook UK & Ireland has also cancelled all future bookings to Tunisia up to the same date and will be bringing all of its customers back to the UK "as soon as we can".

A spokesman said: "The safety and well-being of our customers is our primary concern. As always, we have been closely following the advice from the FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) and local authorities to monitor the situation in Tunisia.

"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.

"Thomas Cook is strongly advising its guests in the country to return on these flights. We are also sending our Specialist Assistance Teams to Tunisia to offer customers additional support in resort.

"We are committed to doing everything we can to support our guests in Tunisia at this time and will work to bring them back to the UK safely and as soon as possible."