Swiss tourists flown home from riot-hit Tunisia

The Swiss foreign ministry has urged tourists to stay away from public protests Keystone

Swiss tourists have been evacuated from Tunisia where the security forces struggle to contain public protests against the government.

This content was published on January 15, 2011 - 18:23 and agencies

Several travel agencies said they would fly holidaymakers back to Switzerland by Sunday adding that all bookings for trips to Tunisia have been suspended.

More than 300 holidaymakers left Tunisia on board several flights on Saturday according to travel agencies quoted by the Swiss News Agency.

The Swiss foreign ministry has set up an emergency service and urged tourists to contact their tour operators.

The ministry warned Swiss citizens to avoid demonstrations and public gatherings. It has advised people against travelling to Tunisia.

The Tunisian president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, fled with his family to Saudi Arabia on Friday after being forced from office. The parliamentary speaker, Foued Mebazza, was sworn in as interim president.

Troops are patrolling the centre of the capital, Tunis, and a state of emergency is in force.

Dozens of people, including a Swiss-Tunisian national, have been killed in recent weeks as unrest spread around the country and security forces cracked down on demonstrations over unemployment, corruption and high food prices.

The Swiss president, Micheline Calmy-Rey, on Friday said she hoped the situation in Tunisia would calm down and reiterated that Switzerland had called for the respect of human rights.

She said the foreign ministry had called on the Tunisian authorities to investigate the death of a 67-year-old Swiss nurse in Dar Chabaane.

There are about 1,300 Swiss living in Tunisia, mainly dual nationals, and the north African country is a popular destination for Swiss tourists.

Meanwhile, an estimated 1,000 people – mainly Tunisians living in the French-speaking part of Switzerland - have taken to streets of Geneva and Lausanne to celebrate the end of Ben Ali’s 23-year rule in Tunisia.

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