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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Irish citizens warned against non-essential travel to Tunisia - Minister

* Second-highest warning category
* Three Irish tourists lost lives in recent attack
* Another hammer blow for Tunisian tourism

Sarah Jane Murphy

Published 10/07/2015 | 12:39

A family reacts beside flowers laid on the beach of the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
A family reacts beside flowers laid on the beach of the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Irish citizens have been instructed not to travel to Tunisia following a warning that another terror attack in the country is "highly likely".

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The Department of Foreign Affairs have updated their advice regarding travel to Tunisia, bringing it in line with the British Foreign Office's position, and are now warning against all but essential travel to the North African country.

Killer: Seifeddine Rezgui
Killer: Seifeddine Rezgui

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said today: "Following consultations and consideration of the security situation in Tunisia, Irish citizens are being advised to avoid non-essential travel to Tunisia in light of increased security concerns.

“This morning, we took the decision to upgrade our travel advice on Tunisia to advise against all non-essential travel. This is the second-highest warning category on our five-point scale for travel advice.

Tunisia victim Lorna Carty
Tunisia victim Lorna Carty

“Since the brutal terrorist attack on tourists in Sousse on June 26,where three Irish citizens tragically lost their lives, we have been in ongoing contact with our international partners and relevant agencies to continually assess the security situation in Tunisia.

“We are now encouraging any Irish visitors to Tunisia to review whether their presence in Tunisia is essential and, where it is not, we are advising them to leave by commercial means," he continued.

Laurence and Martina Hayes were also killed in the attack
Laurence and Martina Hayes were also killed in the attack

Read more: Foreign Affairs reviews Tunisia safety as UK recalls tourists

“Following the decision by travel companies to discontinue direct flights from Dublin to Monastir earlier this month, we believe that relatively few Irish visitors are currently in Tunisia. Our Embassy in Madrid, which is accredited to Tunisia, will be notifying those Irish citizens who are resident in the country of the changes to the travel advice.

Tunisian soldiers and police patrol the area of Mount Salloum near Algeria's border in Kasserine,Tunisia
Tunisian soldiers and police patrol the area of Mount Salloum near Algeria's border in Kasserine,Tunisia

“I urge all Irish citizens travelling abroad to register their details with the Department of Foreign Affairs' Citizens’ Registration site so that we can quickly provide consular assistance to them during an emergency.

“I strongly encourage Irish citizens in Tunisia who are not yet registered with the Department but who plan to remain in Tunisia to register without delay."

"We keep our travel advice under constant review and will continue to monitor the situation in Tunisia very closely.”

Read more: Britain advises tourists to leave Tunisia due to 'highly likely' new terror attack

Tunisian National guard members patrol at the beach in Sousse, Tunisia
Tunisian National guard members patrol at the beach in Sousse, Tunisia

The travel advice comes exactly a fortnight after a devastating terrorist attack in the idyllic beach resort of Sousse that left three Irish people - Lorna Carty and Larry and Martina Hayes - and 35 other holiday makers dead.

Irish tour operators Sunway and Just Sunshine last week suspended all charter flights to Tunisia for the rest of the summer season.

An armed policeman patrols on a beach at Sousse, Tunisia
An armed policeman patrols on a beach at Sousse, Tunisia

A spokeswoman for Sunway said that as of July 3rd all Irish customers had been flown home from Tunisia. "The situation is under constant review, we are working closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs." she said.

The new advice is another hammer blow for the Tunisian tourist industry and has sparked fears it could play into the hands of extremists in the North African country.

Nabil Ammar, Tunisian ambassador to the UK, told BBC Two's Newsnight: "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.

Read more: Tunisia failed to protect its tourists - but if tourism loses, the terrorists have won

Yesterday British tour operators Thomson and First Choice decided to repatriate all staff currently working in Tunisia.

Extra flights have been laid on to evacuate up to 3,000 British package holidaymakers and 300 independent travellers believed to be in Tunisia.

Tunisia has announced plans to build a barrier along the border with Libya - including fencing, a sand wall, trenches and surveillance posts - to keep out extremists following recent terror attacks.

Travellers who have booked package holidays to Tunisia are advised to contact their tour operators as soon as possible to get a refund or change their holiday destination.

If you have booked your flights and accommodation separately you will have to contact the airline and hotel. If the airline cancels the flight in light of the latest advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs you will be entitled to a refund. If not, you may be able to change your flight.

The Sousse beach massacre came just months after 22 people, mostly tourists, were killed at the National Bardo Museum outside Tunis in March.

For more information visit: https://www.dfa.ie/travel/citizens-registration/

Additional reporting by PA

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