Tourists are told: It is still safe

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The Independent Online

Zimbabwe is still safe for British citizens, the Foreign Office said last night as rumours spread that there might be mass evacuations from the troubled country.

Officials played down suggestions that thousands of white Zimbabweans might take refuge in Britain. Even if the position worsened, the number choosing to come here might be small, they said.

Advice to travellers placed on the Foreign Office website yesterday warned of "increasing incidents of serious violence and intimidation in connection with the parliamentary elections" but stopped short of telling tourists to cancel trips to Zimbabwe. Travellers to a rural area should check with friends first to make sure it was safe, the notice said.

A Foreign Office spokesman said 1,000 people had visited the British High Commission in Harare in the past few weeks to check their travel documents were in order, but there were no plans to evacuate any of them.

If British citizens should seek temporary refuge they would be more likely to go to neighbouring countries such as South Africa than Britain, he said.

He believed the total number of people in Zimbabwe entitled to come to the UK was about 20,000. No advice had been sent to British citizens, he said, and farmers with UK passports should be guided by the advice they were receiving from the Commercial Farmers Union.

The Foreign Office minister Peter Hain told MPs that most of the British citizens in Zimbabwe would probably not want to come to Britain.

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