More than 1,000 British nationals remain in chaos-hit Tunisia, despite the emergency evacuation of all tourists holidaying with large UK tour operators.
On Sunday night the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said between 1,000 and 1,500 expats, independent travellers and small tour group holidaymakers were still in the north African republic, following the fall of the country’s president.
More than 3,000 Britons – the majority of whom were enjoying package holidays – fled the north African country over the weekend on emergency flights amid violent riots.
The FCO released the figures after sending a Rapid Deployment Force of consular staff to the stricken country to search for British nationals. It is thought there are around 1,000 expats living in Tunisia.
On Saturday, Thomson First Choice flew almost 1,500 passengers home on seven flights and Thomas Cook returned 300 people after evacuating 1,500 on Friday.
The flights continued on Sunday with 116 Saga customers returning to Britain, Thomas Cook flying back more than 100 and Thomson First Choice getting about 60 passengers back.
Both Thomas Cook and Thomson First Choice were due to fly holidaymakers out for Tunisian winter sun breaks on Wednesday but have cancelled them.
The Foreign Office last night advised British nationals “to leave Tunisia unless they have a pressing need to remain”.
Trouble flared weeks ago but has become steadily worse. Tunisia was a tinderbox of problems, with young people struggling to find jobs, civil rights clampdowns, costs rising and a growing anger at former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s corrupt regime. He fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday, before a new president was sworn in.
On Saturday, 42 people died in a fire at a jail in Monastir in eastern Tunisia and 1,000 inmates were freed from Mahdia jail following a riot. An official said the prison director opened the gates to free the convicts in a bid to avoid further bloodshed.