Travel advice in wake of Turkey terror attack
Following Tuesday's gun and bomb attack on Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, in which 42 people died, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has updated its advice to British travellers. Here are the latest recommendations for Turkey, Greece France, Belgium and Spain.
In the wake of the deadly attacks on Istanbul’s international airport, the FCO has said the threat from terrorism remains high in Turkey and further attacks are likely.
Despite this, it says travel to the country is “generally safe” but advises additional safety precautions are followed, especially around tourist hotspots such as beaches. It has also advised against travel to certain areas of the country, predominantly in the south-east, around the Syrian border.
The FCO says: “Terrorist groups, including Daesh [ISIS] and the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), have publicly threatened to attack tourist sites in Turkey. You should take extra care in public places – particularly those visited by foreigners.
“Attacks are likely to target the Turkish state, civilians and demonstrations. Nevertheless, it’s increasingly likely some attacks will also target western interests and tourists from western countries, particularly in the major cities.”
While Turkish authorities have disrupted planned attacks on 12 January 2016 there was a suicide bomb attack against tourists in Sultanahmet in Istanbul in which 10 people died. On 19 March 2016 a similar attack against tourists on Istiklal St in Istanbul killed four people.
The FCO advises: “Be vigilant, follow the advice of local security authorities, monitor media reports and keep up to date with [FCO] travel advice.”
While the economic situation in Greece has seen a large number of demonstrations and disruption caused by strikes, the threat to UK citizens travelling there is considered fairly low.
There has been a dramatic increase in the number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greek islands, including Lesvos, Kos and Samos, and seeking to continue their journey via Greece to other EU countries. The British Embassy is keeping the situation under review, but at present there are no reports of specific risks to British nationals visiting these islands or at border crossing points.
British nationals aren’t normally considered a specific target, but the FCO warns “there is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria”.
It has emphasised that attacks could happen in places visited by foreigners and travellers are urged to be vigilant.
Following the terror attacks in Paris last November, the French government declared a national state of emergency, which remains in place.
According to the FCO: “There is a high threat from terrorism. Due to ongoing threats to France by Islamist terrorist groups, and recent French military intervention against Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL), the French government has warned the public to be especially vigilant and has reinforced its security measures.”
As the European Football Championships continue in France fans travelling to watch the games are being urged to be vigilant, particularly if they are attending matches or visiting the organised fan zones in host cities.
“During Euro 2016, stadiums, fan zones, venues broadcasting the tournament and transport hubs and links represent potential targets for terrorist attacks. You should be vigilant at all times, especially in areas hosting Euro 2016 events, and follow the advice of local French authorities.”
The French government has launched a free smartphone app to alert users about possible security incidents, including all major natural, technological and terrorist-related risks. Users will be able to view alerts for up to eight geographical areas. The app, called SAIP, is available in English and French. You can download it from the Apple App store or Google Play.
Belgium has also been victim to Islamist terror attacks in recent years and the country’s security forces say there is still a “serious and real threat” of further incidents.
Police operations to counter potential attacks are ongoing throughout the country and security operations could be carried out at short notice.
Public events and areas popular with locals and foreign visitors are subject to increased security measures and the FCO warns that some events could be cancelled and tourists attractions closed.
The FCO says: “There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including on public transport and transport hubs and in other places visited by foreigners.
“You should remain vigilant, stay away from crowded places and follow the instructions of the Belgian authorities. Police have asked the public not to comment on police operations on social media.”
According to the FCO there is a high threat from terrorism in Spain and tourists should take extra care.
As with other European countries, the FCO warns that areas popular with foreign visitors are viewed as potential and adds: “Attacks could be indiscriminate. The Spanish authorities take measures to protect visitors, but you should be vigilant and follow the instructions of the local authorities.”
In 2015, Spanish police disrupted a number of groups suspected of recruiting individuals to travel to Syria and Iraq. Some of them expressed an intention to carry out attacks in Europe. Several further police operations have taken place in 2016.