NEARLY 2,000 British tourists were being brought home from strife-torn Tunisia today.
– The Sun
Travel company Thomas Cook said it was suspending its Tunisia programme and evacuating 1,800 holidaymakers from the North African country.
Six flights were bringing the tourists home, with the first due to arrive at Manchester at 2.30pm today.
Four flights are due to come in to Manchester and two to Gatwick in West Sussex.
Tunisia has been rocked by unrest sparked by anger at unemployment and at a leadership many see as controlling and corrupt.
Today thousands of angry demonstrators marched through Tunisia’s capital, Tunis, to demand the resignation of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Thomas Cook said today: “Although there has been no specific problems for our holidaymakers, their well-being is our primary concern so, as a precaution, we’ve taken the decision to bring them back to the UK as soon as we can, using our fleet of aircraft today.”
The Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel to Tunisia.
A spokesman said: “There have been demonstrations, some violent, in multiple locations across the country.
“The situation is unpredictable and there is the potential for violence to flare up, raising the risk of getting caught up in demonstrations.
“British nationals in Tunisia should monitor the news or stay in touch with your tour operator.”
Thomas Cook added it had also cancelled its flights to Tunisia due to leave on Sunday and was “reviewing the situation” for the flights planned for next Wednesday.
Holiday companies First Choice and Thomson said they had cancelled all excursions due to take place in Tunisia today and had also cancelled the Thomson Airways’ flights due to leave for Tunisia on Sunday.
But the companies said they were only bringing home those customers who wished to leave.
They added: “At this time, customers may continue their holidays in Tunisia as planned, to return home as scheduled.
“Our experienced overseas teams are updating our customers in resorts of the situation and we are organising aircraft today for those customers wishing to return home.”
They said no decision had yet been taken on flights due to depart for Tunisia after Sunday.
The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said: “Those tourists who are currently in Tunisia should continue to remain vigilant, and follow advice from their tour operator and the Foreign Office.
“There have been no reports of British nationals being affected by the unrest and foreigners are unlikely to be targeted. However, tourists should remain cautious and vigilant and continue to follow the advice of their tour operator, local authorities and the FO.
“We estimate around 5,000 British tourists are currently in the country in a number of different resorts. These include Sousse, Portel Kantoui, Hammamet, Djerba, Skanes and Mahdia.”
The company added customers of Abta members who have booked package holidays to Tunisia but have not yet travelled will be entitled to receive suitable alternative arrangements, rebook for a later date or, where these are not available, a full refund.