The Jungle Massacre: Foreign Office `was right' in not issuing a warning

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The Independent Online
UNTIL YESTERDAY'S tragic events, Uganda had positioned itself among a group of countries offering tourists adventure holidays that reach the upper limits of what is risky and exhilarating, without tipping over into the life-threatening.

In shunning mass-market destinations, visitors to such countries undoubtedly see themselves as explorers rather than tourists. Uganda had cornered the market by being able to offer possible sightings of rare mountain gorillas, in its Impenetrable Forest National Park. The only other places the gorillas may be seen - the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda - are already off-limits as sensible destinations.

Now south-west Uganda is included in those parts of the world that are "out of bounds". Following the kidnappings in Uganda, the Foreign Office updated its advice on the country, warning travellers to stay away from the border areas with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.

Yesterday, Foreign Office minister Baroness Symons said: "The advice we have put out on this obviously has had to take into account the appalling incident that has happened and we have advised against all travel to the border area."

She said the Foreign Office had been correct in not previously issuing a blanket warning against travelling to the area.

"The Foreign Office advice has to be based on facts. Foreign Office advice was that rebels have been periodically active in this area, although recently the situation has been peaceful.

"We did say this can change very quickly and that anybody who wanted to travel up-country should seek advice from our High Commission. That was factually correct advice."

At the moment the Foreign Office's consular division lists 17 countries, or provinces within countries, where it expressly advises against all travel.

Some of these, such as Afghanistan, Algeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are obvious danger spots. Others, such as the western Sahara and Sri Lanka, are less obvious.

All, however, are deemed too dangerous for travel as a result of civil conflicts and, in some cases - such as that of Chechnya - the Foreign Office considers them so dangerous that it does not even base any officials there.

In addition to these 17 "no-go" countries, the Foreign Office lists a number of places which it advises people not to travel to unless on "essential business". These include Angola and Rwanda.

Like the Foreign Office, private international security firms, such as Control Risks, provide advice for companies operating in the developing world.

"We update the situations in 120 countries on a daily basis," said Mara McNeil Sinclairs, head of business development at Control Risks.

"This is done from a range of information - people on the ground, news reports, as well as our specialist knowledge."

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