All British nationals in Tunisia have been told by the UK government to leave the country because another terrorist attack is “highly likely” following last month’s beach massacre.
Travel firms are pulling out of Tunisia as a holiday destination after the Foreign Office last night warned against all but essential travel there.
Thomson and First Choice immediately cancelled all outbound flights for the summer season running up to and including 31 October following last night’s announcement.
Thirty Britons, including four Scots, were among 38 tourists who were killed in the terror attack at the resort of Sousse last month.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) estimates 2,500 to 3,000 UK tourists are in Tunisia and a few hundred British residents.
The FCO said tour operators were arranging extra flights back to the UK because – despite stepped-up security measures by Tunisian authorities – there is not “adequate protection for British tourists”.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “While we do not have any information suggesting a specific or imminent threat, since the attack in Sousse the intelligence and threat picture has developed considerably, leading us to the view that a further terrorist attack is highly likely.”
UK authorities have been working with their Tunisian counterparts since the beach attack on 26 June but despite the increased security since the shootings, the government said the extra measures did not go far enough.
In updated travel advice, the Foreign Office said: “On balance, we do not believe the mitigation measures in place provide adequate protection for British tourists in Tunisia at the present time and we have therefore changed our travel advice accordingly.”
A spokesman for Thomson and First Choice said that they did not have any customers in the country but “as a precautionary measure we have taken the decision to repatriate all British Thomson and First Choice staff currently working in Tunisia within the next 24 hours”.
All 30 of the Britons killed in the massacre were Thomson and First Choice customers.
Thomas Cook UK & Ireland also cancelled all future bookings to Tunisia up to 31 October. A spokesman said it will be bringing all of its customers back to the UK “as soon as we can”.
The spokesman added: “The safety and well-being of our customers is our primary concern. As always, we have been closely following the advice from the FCO and local authorities to monitor the situation in Tunisia.
“In response to the recent change in FCO advice, we have taken this decision to bring all Thomas Cook customers back to the UK as soon as we can using third-party carriers and on our ten scheduled flights over the weekend.
“Thomas Cook is strongly advising its guests in the country to return on these flights. We are also sending our specialist assistance teams to Tunisia to offer customers additional support in resort.
“We are committed to doing everything we can to support our guests in Tunisia at this time and will work to bring them back to the UK safely and as soon as possible.”
Holidaymakers should contact their tour operators about returning to Britain and independent travellers should make their own arrangements to leave, the FCO said.
Michelle Ayres, a British tourist staying at the Riadh Palms Hotel in Sousse, said she had not been given any information.
She said: “Everything we have heard is only what we have read online.
“There’s no rep here, so it is just literally all British people together, discussing what we have all read on our own operators’ websites.”
She added: “Everyone’s view, not just myself, is if us Britons are at risk, why put us all on the same buses to remove us from the hotels? Surely that is the risk that they want. We all feel perfectly safe within the hotel. They have been amazing.”
Malcolm Tarling, of the Association of British Insurers, suggested that anyone who has booked to go there should speak to their tour operator or travel agent and perhaps make alternative arrangements.
He said: “Some, but not all, travel policies may cover cancellation due to government advice not to travel. Tour operators, travel agents and air carriers should be able to arrange return to the UK for people currently there on holiday.”
Monarch Airlines said it is arranging to repatriate all customers in resorts “back to the UK as soon as possible” in response to the changed advice. Flights have been organised to take them out of Tunisia by this weekend.
A spokesman said the airline is cancelling all flights to Enfidha for the rest of the summer season with “immediate effect”.
All customers who have already booked to travel there will get a full refund or credit, or may be able to change their destination.
Customers who booked through a travel agent or tour operator should contact them for advice as soon as possible.
Jet2.com and Jet2holidays said all of its travellers are out of Tunisia and that it has no plans to return there this season.