Brits defy Foreign Office warnings to holiday in Tunisia
Nearly 200 Brits have put their lives at risk and defied government travel advice by taking holidays in Tunisia, according to a leading campaigner.
Mehdi Bahi, chairman of the Tunisian Association in Britain, has been campaigning for the Foreign Office to change its advice warning against all but essential travel to the north African country.
Since the advice was introduced in the wake of the Sousse beach attack where 30 Britons were killed, Mr Bahi, from Oldbury, has called for lighter restrictions due to the devastating impact on the country's tourism sector.
This is despite the country's premier saying further attacks were 'highly likely' and officials saying they had thwarted 15 terror attempts since the summer.
Around 400,000 people are estimated to be directly employed by the country's tourism industry and Mr Bahi says they are at risk of being radicalised if they lose their jobs as a result of the slump in tourism.
He said almost 200 Britons he knows had taken holidays there despite the advice to support Tunisian tourism.
Many have shared pictures on Facebook to spread awareness of the campaign to get Britain to change its travel advice.
Mr Bahi, from Oldbury, said: "I am so grateful to those brave people from Britain who have gone and shown Tunisia is a safe place.
"They had a holiday, had a good time, booked their own flights, their own transfers, their own hotels, and are now back safe in the UK.
"We have seen from the devastating attack in Paris that terrorism can happen in any city. The numbers killed were much higher than those in the attacks in Tunisia but Britain has not told its citizens to avoid France.
"It is said that security in Tunisia is not as good in France, but how do we know that is the case after seeing what happened?
"Of course, my feelings of sorrow and heart-felt thoughts are with those who lost family members and friends in Tunisia, but the Foreign Office advice is effectively a ban which is losing people jobs in the tourism industry.
"This is what the terrorists wanted. Our campaign is about showing the terrorists they will not win. Unemployment in Tunisia is a big factor which leads to radicalisation. Those working in the tourism industry are now vulnerable because they are young and losing their jobs. They are at most risk of being manipulated by the terrorists."
Britain's biggest travel operators Thomson and Thomas Cook have slashed the prices to holidays in Tunisia. They are advertising package holidays from May 1 despite the Foreign Office advice.
If the advice remains unchanged, then the cut price holidays will not go ahead. But the holiday firms have been criticised. South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson described the companies as 'shameless' for trying to cash in while the government advice against travelling remained in place.
While the mother of Joel Richards from Wednesbury who was killed in the beach attack alongside his uncle Adrian Evans and grandfather Patrick Evans said the firms were being 'irresponsible'.
She asked holidaymakers to think about what happened to her family before deciding whether to go to Tunisia. It is understood Foreign Office officials are reviewing the advice to see if travel can return to tourism spots providing there is the right security. Current advice states: "The threat from terrorism in Tunisia is high. Further attacks remain highly likely, including against foreigners. Security forces are on a high state of alert in Tunis and other locations."
After the killings in Sousse in June and at the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March, there was a suicide attack in Tunis in November where security personnel died.
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