Ben Ireland reports from the Royal Courts of Justice in London
No concerns were raised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) over the security at hotels in Tunisia ahead of the Sousse attack, Tui’s legal representative has argued.
Speaking at the inquest into the deaths of 30 Britons in an attack on the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in June 2015, Howard Stevens QC said FCO advice at the time referred to upping security at ‘tourist sites’, which he argued meant destinations to which excursions were taken.
The Sousse massacre came three months after a separate attack at the Bardo museum in Tunis, which led to the death of 20 people.
The terror threat level within travel advice, issued by the FCO, was not changed after the Bardo attack – but the language was “strengthened”.
British tourist numbers in Tunisia continued to rise after the Bardo attack as tour operators reduced prices of breaks to the country.
Mr Stevens quizzed the FCO’s Jane Marriott during the second day of the inquest, and showed her an internal FCO email, which warned: “This means a greater likelihood of Brits going into areas where we advise against travel.
“Assuming you’re not suggesting any travel advice changes, better we re-double our efforts with tour operators and independent travellers to remind of the threat and areas we consider unsafe?”
Before Sousse, Tunisia had been split into areas with red, amber and green travel advice. Stevens argued that – as travel advice was not changed, and the resort of Sousse falls in the green category – the emails prove that the resort was considered safe to travel to.
Instead, he argued that the FCO warnings referred to excursions, which emails to Hamish Cowell – ambassador at the time – suggested had been stopped after the Bardo attack.
Stevens also said French and German travel advice was updated along the same lines as the British guidance, and suggested Tunisian authorities had ramped up security in resorts.
Meanwhile, Marriott told the court that the British ambassador holidayed in Tunisia with his family during the period between the Bardo and Sousse attacks – suggesting he felt safe against the threat of terrorism, Stevens said.
The seven-week inquest continues.
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