Last week, eleven Serbian tourists spending their holidays in Tunisian resort towns of Sousse and Hammamet categorically refused to leave this North African country before Thursday, Jan. 20, which was supposed to be the final day of their tour. Because of the emergency situation, they had been offered to return to Belgrade with the last Jat Airways flight last week, but after they refused, the Serbian Embassy representatives told them they would be staying at their own risk, as the Embassy could not guarantee any flights out of Tunisia on the day of their scheduled departure.
Although the resorts are located at some distance from the Tunisian hot points of political unrest, evacuation was recommended mostly because hotels were closing for safety reasons, slowly running out of food and water.
Milica Cubrilo Filipovic, the Serbian Ambassador in Tunisia, did find herself and her children in a truly dangerous situation, however: she said “bullets whistled from all directions” during the evacuation of her children. She had warned the Serbian tourists of potential risks that they were exposed to as foreign citizens in Tunisia.
The Embassy of Serbia helped to evacuate 11 Macedonian tourists, since Macedonia has no embassy in Tunisia. One Russian woman with two small children somehow happened to be among these evacuees.
Serbian tourists said to the Serbian media they were satisfied with how the Tunisians were protecting them. According to them, special forces were on the roof of their hotel, while plainclothes police officers walked around outside. The only problem they encountered was during their transfer to the Monastir airport, when a group of demonstrators threw stones at their bus. No one was injured, however.
Those tourists who agreed to return to Serbia were upset because their winter holiday was prematurely terminated. A retired Serbian couple Dara and Mihajlo Stancevic, for example, told a Serbian newspaper that they they had been spending their winters in Ben Ali‘s Tunisia for the past seven years and liked it there, not only because of the excellent climate, but also because the cost of living there was much lower than back home in Serbia.
Visitors on Forum “Krstarica” reacted critically to the behavior of their compatriots in Tunisia.
How selfish we have become… How insensitive we have become… A man says he did not want to return, but O.K, he will be fully compensated… a woman says that it was so great in the hotel, but she had to return… how people lose any empathy and compassion… if they are not concerned about their own safety, why not think what they could have caused Tunisians. If someone killed or injured them, Tunisia would be on front pages of all the world's media.
Describing the tourists’ mentality, she also explained :
You cannot tan this time of year in Tunisia. […] They do not want to return home because they sit in five-star hotels that they cannot afford in high season, so they go there off-season. This is the most terrible thing in the whole story. Some people desire so much a room at a luxury hotel that they would even risk their own life for it…
They think their hotel is safe, but tomorrow it may fall into the hands of some wild, armed hordes.
Jug Bogdan wondered:
Anarchy in Tunisia, and they want to be sunbathing.
Gost on Bundolo.org wrote sarcastically:
Poor tourists. A mob of hungry and “dirty” Tunisians ruined their enjoyment. Even the hotels were left without food for the hungry tourists and the water in the pools stays unchanged.