Department of Foreign Affairs advises against travel to Tunisia

‘Relatively few’ Irish tourists believed to be in Tunisia at present, says Minister

A boy holds a Tunisian flag as he stands near bouquets of flowers laid at the beachside of the Imperiale Marhabada hotel, which was attacked by a gunman in Sousse, Tunisia. Photograph: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

A boy holds a Tunisian flag as he stands near bouquets of flowers laid at the beachside of the Imperiale Marhabada hotel, which was attacked by a gunman in Sousse, Tunisia. Photograph: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

 

The Department of Foreign Affairs has advised Irish citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Tunisia in light of increased security concerns.

A statement on the website said: “We are 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”.

The Department advised any Irish citizens in Tunisia who are not already registered with the Department but who plan to remain in Tunisia to register without delay.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said the expected decision was taken after consultations and consideration of the security situation in the North African state.

“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 said.

Mr Flanagan said “relatively few” Irish tourists are believed to be in Tunisia at present.

“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,” he said.

The British Foreign Office urged British nationals to leave Tunisia on Thursday after Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said “a further terrorist attack is highly likely”.

A spokeswoman for travel agency Sunway said all Irish tourists who were travelling to Tunisia had returned home, adding that Sunway had suspended its programme to Tunisia “until the situation is clarified”.

The travel agency is working with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the company’s team in Tunisia, and the Sunway Tunisia programme remains “under constant review”.

“Our customers’ safety is paramount to us,” the spokeswoman said. “We won’t be reinstating our flights until we’re sure that everything is safe, but we don’t know when that is going to be.”

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has met with European ministers to discuss the threat posed by international terrorism and the need for a unified EU response to the migration crisis in the Mediterranean.

The minister said European member states must cooperate with each other and remain “vigilant and focused on our actions to counter the risks posed”.

“Above all we must continue to take a resolute and robust stance in defence of our democratic way of life.”

The ministers agreed on the urgent need to advance the EU Passenger Name Records proposal, which will require air carriers to pass on passenger information on international flights to and from the EU to the member states.

The proposal will be voted on next week in the European Parliament Committee.

Ms Fitzgerald said the move was “an important measure in the context of the Union’s fight against terrorism and serious, transnational crime”.

Additional reporting from PA