LATEST: Yorkshire holidaymakers angry at having to quit Tunisia

A Tunisian police officer guards the beach area in front of the attacked Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Sousse, Tunisia.
A Tunisian police officer guards the beach area in front of the attacked Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Sousse, Tunisia.
0
Have your say

HOLIDAYMAKERS from Yorkshire today spoke of their anger after being forced to return from holidays in Tunisia.

They spoke as more British holidaymakers were expected to fly home from Tunisia today, after the Government urged them to leave the country amid fears of another attack.

Tracey Caburn returned from Tunisia with her mother, Maureen Sudmore and sister Debbie Murphy, from Pontefract.

Mrs Caburn said: “It’s a disgrace. We felt safe. We would’ve stayed there. We didn’t feel threatened at all. There were guards on the roof, the gates, the beach. We wanted to stay.

“If they were going to bring us home so quickly they should not have let us fly out in the first place.”

Les Aston, 61, from Shrewsbury, was also disappointed to be home.

He said: “They let us go out there and now we’ve been brought back home. It makes no sense. The staff were in tears when we left the hotel. Tourism in Tunisia will be ruined.”

Monarch Airlines confirmed that 125 of its customers had returned on a flight into Gatwick last night, and expected another flight to land at the airport this afternoon.

Extra flights were laid on across the weekend to evacuate up to 3,000 British package holidaymakers and 300 independent travellers who were believed to be in Tunisia.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond defended the repatriation of tourists, after protests from the north African country that the UK was playing into terrorists’ hands.

Some Britons in Tunisia voiced anger that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had not changed its travel advice to warn against visiting the country immediately after the June 26 attack in the resort of Sousse.

Gunman Seifeddine Rezgui murdered 38 holidaymakers, including 30 UK nationals, in an outrage for which the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility.

But others said they were disappointed to have to cut their holidays short. Heidi Barlow, 34, said she was reassured by the armed guards posted at hotel entrances and beaches, adding: “People feel safe. They certainly didn’t expect to have to leave.”

Foreign tourism accounts for around 15% of Tunisian GDP, and the country’s ambassador in London, Nabil Ammar, warned: “This is what the terrorists want. By damaging the tourism, by having foreigners leaving the country, they damage the whole sector and put so many people out of work and on the streets.

“One of the sources of terrorism is lack of hope. It is not the only motor of it but it is one of the very important origins.”

Mr Hammond said the Government had been careful not to act in a “knee-jerk manner” by urging Britons to quit Tunisia after the Sousse attack, and said the UK will continue to work with Tunisia on improving security and hoped to downgrade the travel advice “in the not too distant future”.

Downing Street said that “substantial” work was needed to improve security for tourists, and it was likely to be “some time” before the advice against travel can be lifted.

The first disappointed holidaymakers, who arrived back in the UK at Manchester Airport yesterday, criticised the Government’s handling of the issue.

Downing Street said the revised travel advice was based on information received over the previous 24 hours.

This included evolving intelligence about the threat to Britons in Tunisia; information from the Tunisian security authorities that people with possible links to the Sousse attack were still at large; and the results of a security assessment carried out by UK experts.

A Thomas Cook spokesman said it was “strongly advising” customers in Tunisia to return to the UK over the weekend, and was sending specialist assistance teams to the country to offer additional support in resorts.

Monarch Airlines is arranging to repatriate all customers in resorts “back to the UK as soon as possible”.

Tour operators Thomson and First Choice have no remaining customers in the country, but have cancelled all flights to Tunisia for the summer season.

Former British ambassador to Libya Oliver Miles said he is “puzzled” at the decision to repatriate tourists.

“There clearly is a threat but what puzzles me is that the threat is not confined to Tunisia and is not confined to the British. On the same day as the Sousse outrage there was an outrage in Kuwait which was almost as serious, there was one in France which could have been very serious if it had been successful, there was one in Egypt, two days later there was one in Yemen.

“So why are we focusing on Tunisia? Is it simply because 30 people got killed there two weeks ago? It’s not a good reason,” he told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

And in a video on the Daily Telegraph website, Mr Miles said: “There have been appalling incidents all over the place. Why should we think just because the last one was in Tunisia that the next one’s going to be in Tunisia?”

He added: “It seems to me that the logic which leads to this advice would lead also to advice about tourism in Egypt for example, or tourism in Morocco or tourism in Jordan or indeed tourism in France or America, or you name it because there have been incidents all over the place.

“And, of course, in Britain. We shouldn’t stay at home either.”

Tunisia’s prime minister “regrets” the UK Government’s decision to fly its citizens home, as scores of British holidaymakers make the journey back today.

His comments come as Tunisia’s interior ministry said counter-terrorism forces had killed five suspected extremists in a mountain gunfight.

Habib Essid told Sky News: “We regret the decision was taken to ask all the citizens to leave the country. We could have done something else that could help both sides, but we understand.

“Tunisia needs to be supported. It needs to be helped against what the terrorists are doing.

“The objective of the terrorist is that people from abroad won’t feel safe in Tunisia.”