UK Foreign Office advises against travel to Sri Lanka: here's what to do if you're supposed to be going
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The UK Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka following terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday which killed more than 250 people, including at least eight British nationals.
On the 21st April 2019, three churches and three hotels were targeted by Islamist terrorist groups in central Colombo, Colombo Kochchikade and Negombo.
Image credit: Chathura indika on Unsplash
The attacks, according to the BBC, are “the deadliest violence Sri Lanka has witnessed since the end of the country’s civil war in 2009”.
The UK Foreign Office has warned that there may be further attacks and that tourist hotspots are likely to be targeted.
ABTA, previously the Association of British Travel Agents, has made the following announcement:
“The Foreign Office has changed its travel advice to Sri Lanka and now advises against all but essential travel. Customers who are due to travel imminently to the island on package holidays will be offered options of deferring their date of travel, transferring to another destination or a full refund. Customers who have booked independently will need to discuss their options with their airline and accommodation provider.”
Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attacks but Sri Lankan Health Minister, Rajitha Senaratne, blames National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), a Sri Lankan Islamist group.
The true source of the attacks is unclear.
The Sri Lankan government has since banned the use of face coverings in public, motivated by a desire to aid identification of the Easter Sunday bombers and other potential attackers. Although specific Islamic garments including the niqab and the burka have not been explicitly listed, many feel that this policy is targeted at the Muslim community.
It is likely that this policy will increase tensions across Sri Lanka.
Curfews have also been put in place in some areas.
During the civil war, Muslims were targeted by Tamil Tiger rebels. This bred deep-seated dissatisfaction with the government. The recent policy is likely to exacerbate tensions across this island nation, threatening further violence.
Anyone planning to visit Sri Lanka should remain informed of the developing situation. See the Foreign and Commonwealth office advice for Sri Lanka here.
Lead image credit: Chathura indika on Unsplash