FCO Tunisia travel advice changed

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Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt

The Government has amended its travel advice for Tunisia in light of the “reduced threat to British nationals” following the country’s recent political unrest, the Foreign Office said.

The uprising in the North African country last month saw President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali ejected after 23 years in power. The pace of events shocked observers, and led to speculation other countries could be next to experience popular action.

A section on the FCO website said the overall level of advice had changed and “we no longer advise against all but essential travel to Tunisia”. It added: “While all major groups have ended their demonstrations, further unrest remains possible.”

A nightly curfew between 10pm and 4am remains in the Greater Tunis area until further notice.

Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt said: “Last month’s events in Tunisia were watched around the world. There is now a new government which is broad-based and has signalled its intention to deliver political reform and a path of reform to what we hope will be free and fair elections.

“This progress, marked by its commitment to sign important human rights agreements, appears to have public acceptance.

He added: “It is still early days. Much depends on how the new Tunisian government continues to engage with the public, civil society and the international community. But the UK believes that its actions are encouraging.

“We have decided to change our travel advice to reflect our assessment of these recent events and the reduced threat to British nationals. Their safety is always our primary concern. A tourist industry is vital to Tunisia’s economy and future. We hope this change in the advice enables people to see the country in a new light and we look forward to being engaged in assisting its political, social and economic development.”

An estimated 5,000 Britons, most of them tourists on package holidays, were in Tunisia when the situation deteriorated. The Foreign Office initially altered its travel advice to “all but essential travel” on January 14, with more then 3,000 British citizens then leaving the country on additional flights laid on by tour operators.

Former shadow foreign secretary Yvette Cooper previously accused the Foreign Office of being slow to change its travel advice, saying British tourists had been told it was not necessary to leave, only to hear from their tour company that they were being brought home.

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