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Tunisian ambassador in plea to Foreign Office as UK tourists plummet 90%

Published 24/05/2016

An armed policeman on the beach in Sousse, Tunisia, following the terrorist attack
An armed policeman on the beach in Sousse, Tunisia, following the terrorist attack

The Foreign Office is being urged to relax its travel advice on Tunisia after the country has seen a 90% drop in British visitors since the beginning of the year.

Britons are currently warned against all but essential travel to the north African country, guidance that has been in place since 31 British holidaymakers were killed in two terror attacks in 2015.

But the Tunisian ambassador to the UK, Nabil Ammar, told the BBC the Government should take into account security improvements that have been made over the last 12 months.

The Foreign Office said the safety of Britons is its main concern.

Mr Ammar, from Sousse, told the BBC there was now a gap between the "perception of the level of security, and the real security on the ground".

He said: "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."

He added that he respected the UK Foreign Office, but that it should not allow "the impression that this is not a safe country, and take into account all the progress made" in security.

Mr Ammar also argued that part of the solution against terrorism is to have a good economy, and that he wanted the tragedy of the attacks to bring the two countries closer together.

According to the Tunisian Tourist Board, there was a fall of more than 90% in UK visitors for the first four months of this year compared with the same 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.

Thirty Britons were among 38 people massacred in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse in June last year - the worst incident of terrorism involving British people since the July 7 attacks in London in 2005.

Gunman Seifeddine Rezgui targeted holidaymakers on the beach and in a hotel before being shot dead by security forces. Terror group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility.

Three months earlier, IS terrorists opened fire on tourists at the Bardo National Museum in the capital, Tunis. British tourist Sally Adey, 57, from Shropshire, was among 22 people killed.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We know our travel advice can have a knock-on effect on local economy and political considerations, but we don't let this influence the advice we give. The safety of British nationals is our main concern.

"We are working closely with the Tunisians to understand the terrorist threat better and to help them to strengthen measures to protect tourists further. Our travel advice is under constant review and we will change it as soon as the security situation permits."

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