The British government ran out of patience on Thursday and told all of its people to leave Tunisia because their authorities are not doing enough to keep them safe. They also said a terrorist attack is “highly likely” after two happened in recent months, both against tourists in popular places.
The Foreign Office said no one should go to Tunisia unless its an emergency. The place is a popular destination for Britons who like the beautiful beaches and hotels. It said British tourists currently in Tunisia should contact their travel agents, which will help them get back home as soon as possible.
In the attack last month, 38 tourists lost their lives, 30 of them were British. The gunman, who was a student, showed up to the beach resort and opened fire on the tourists. He was taken down by police, but their response was not fast enough and this has led to criticism and firings of a few officials. Back in March, 22 tourists also lost their lives in an attack at the National Bardo Museum outside Tunis. “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,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.
The nation said it made this decision because “we do not believe the mitigation measures in place provide adequate protection for British tourists in Tunisia.”
Last weekend, a few days after the attack, Tunisian authorities announced a state of emergency and deployed more guards to the visited areas. Tunisia had already sent guards but they sent more to show that they had stepped up their security efforts.
Hammond said British authorities were in contact with travel agencies to get their citizens back home as quickly as possible. “To those travelling independently, our advice is to return on commercial flights which are operating normally,” he added.
Travel company Thomas Cook Group plc (LON:TCG), which has close to 2,000 British customers in the troubled country, said it would be bringing back many of them starting this weekend. The company has already cancelled trips to Tunisia for the next three and a half months.
Some of the British vacationing in Tunisia, said they didn’t know about the decision. One of them was Michelle Ayres, who said she and other travelers had not received any details other than what they found on the internet. She wondered “if us Britons are at risk why put us all on the same buses to remove us from the hotels? Surely, that is the risk that they want?”
”We all feel perfectly safe within the hotel,” she told Channel 4 News. “They have been amazing.”
The decision is a huge blow to Tunisia’s tourist industry. Thousands of British tourists visit their great beaches and hotels every year. Right now, the country has around 3,000 British tourists, many of them stayed after the attack.
Germany is also monitoring the situation because two Germans lost their lives in the attack. Like Germany, France is waiting to see what happens next.
The industry has been hit hard since the attacks on June 26. At the Riu Palace Hammamet Marhaba in coastal Hammamet, receptionist Hamdi Mohsen said the business is way down, the worst he’s seen in his 34 years working at the resort. “It’s all because of Sousse,” he said.