12:34 am
26 October 2016

Tunisia delegation in bid to convince UK government to drop travel warning

Senior Tunisian officials are to meet the UK’s Foreign Office minister, Tobias Ellwood, in London on Monday to try to convince the government to drop its advice to Britons not to travel to the north African nation in the aftermath of last month’s shootings.

Tunisia’s transport minister, Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, a member of the delegation, told the Guardian that cutting the country off was playing into the hands of the terrorists who carried out the atrocity.

The Tunisian officials will also meet the families of the victims to pass on the country’s condolences later in the afternoon. It comes after the Foreign Office (FCO) asked all British nationals to leave Tunisia after a gunman killed 38 peopleand wounded many others in the seaside town of Sousse on 26 June; 30 of the dead were British.

“The purpose of our stay in London is, first, to present our condolences to the families of the victims,” said Ben Romdhane. “Secondly, to convince the British authorities that the decision they have taken regarding Tunisia should no longer stay because it is a very painful decision for Tunisia and it is in line with the hopes of the terrorists.

“This decision will make Tunisia a remote country that no one goes to; it is the exact hope of the terrorists. This is the main message that we would like to convey to the British authorities.”

Foreign tourists are important to the Tunisian economy and the British government’s travel advice is a blow to the country, he said: “Tunisia is an open country, we have no natural resources; we have our human resources and our openness to the world, which is key to us.”

Speaking on the eve of the meeting, Ben Romdhane said that as fellow democracies Britain and Tunisia should stand in solidarity. He added that Tunisia had followed the advice of the British security services and taken steps to improve security for tourists, including placing armed guards and security cameras in hotels and on beaches.

The FCO’s travel advice has been questioned by the chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, Crispin Blunt, who said he would still go on holiday to Tunisia.

The Tunisian delegation will include the president of the country’s parliament Mohamed Ennaceur and its tourism minister, Selma Elloumi Rekik, as well as senior government advisers. It will gather in the morning, before holding meetings with Ellwood, the victims’ families and the Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow.

The meetings come as the funerals of the British victims take place. On Friday, eight of those killed – including three members of the same family – were laid to rest.

An FCO spokesman said that the travel advice it issues is under constant review.