Britain denies evacuating nationals
22 May 2014, 21:21
Nairobi - The British government on Wednesday has denied evacuating its citizens Mombasa over the rising terrorism threats in the country.
British High Commissioner to Kenya Christian Turner clarified that the British government does not enforce its travel advice, stressing that it is for individuals and travel firms to make their own decisions about foreign travel advice and information available from other sources into account.
"Our travel advice for Nairobi or any other part of the country has not changed. The British Government is not evacuating its citizens from Kenya," Turner said in a statement issued late on Wednesday in Nairobi.
"Some British tourists flew out of Mombasa last week on the advice of their tour company, following their decision to discontinue their charter flights to the area. We recognize the impact of the terrorism on Kenya," he said.
The statement came after more than 600 British tourists on holiday were evacuated from Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa last week after London issued travel advisory warning its nationals to stay away from the coastal resorts.
Tourism stakeholders in Mombasa said Britain's Thomson Airline evacuated the visitors for fear of being attacked by terrorists. The tourism sector has so far lost 4.5 million U.S. dollars due to advisories over cancellations of bookings.
Kenya receives more visitors from Britain and tour operators said they feared the new warning could cause a collapse of tourism around the country's Indian Ocean beaches that would last at least the rest of this year.
Analysts had also warned that the warnings are a blow to Kenya's already troubled tourist industry which relies on foreign visitors, many of whom combine safaris with beach holidays in Mombasa.
Mombasa, the country's second largest city and a major tourist spot is one of various cities targeted by a series of grenade attacks and abduction of foreigners in recent months.
But Kenyan authorities said the East African nation was playing a crucial role in ensuring that terrorism and other forms of criminal activities threatening the country's security were minimized if not eliminated.
Turner said Britain continues to be committed to working with Kenya to combat terrorism and pledged that he would play his role to strengthen bilateral relationship between Kenya and Britain and would also work towards bringing in more investors and tourists to the country.
He said London has a responsibility to inform its citizens of the potential threats aimed at both Kenya and the international community.
"Our travel advice reflects solely our objective assessment of the security position. It is kept under constant review. The substantive change to our travel advice was to advice against all but essential travel to a specific part of the area around Mombasa, " he said.
The British government was the first to issue travel advisories warning its citizens not to visit the coastal beaches, Nairobi and the north-eastern region. France, Australia and the United States followed with updated advisories.
Kenya's coastal towns are the backbone of the country's thriving tourism industry, which has been hit by the fear of terror attacks and the kidnapping of foreigners by Somali pirates from resorts near the border with Somalia.