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UK defends repatriation of Tunisia tourists

By Andrew Woodcock

Published 11/07/2015

Philip Hammond
Philip Hammond

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has defended the repatriation of 3,000 British tourists from Tunisia after protests from the North African country that the UK was playing into terrorists' hands.

It came against a backdrop of tension and sadness on home soil, as the funeral services for British casualties were held while terror alerts in Tunisia have been ramped up amid concerns of another attack.

Some Britons in Tunisia voiced anger that the Foreign Office had not changed its travel advice to warn against visiting the country immediately after the June 26 attack in the resort of Sousse, when gunman Seifeddine Rezgui murdered 38 holidaymakers - including 30 UK nationals and three Irish people - 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."

Meanwhile, Ireland has followed the UK's example by advising its citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to Tunisia - its second highest threat level.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said the decision was taken after consultations and consideration of the security situation in the North African state.

He said "relatively few" Irish tourists are believed to be in Tunisia at present.

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