British embassy suspends services citing security reasons

The British embassy in Cairo suspended its services until further notice on Sunday, citing undisclosed security reasons.

Although the consulate in Alexandria has continued to operate normally, Egyptian citizens were asked to refrain from visiting the embassy in the upscale Cairo neighbourhood of Garden City, or apply through other countries such as Dubai or Bahrain.

A statement on the embassy’s website said: “Public services at the British Embassy in Cairo are suspended on Sunday, December 7. The office of the British Consulate-General in Alexandria is operating as normal.  Documentary services are currently suspended and please do not come to the embassy building.”

An embassy media representative told journalists earlier on Sunday that the decision was taken for the security of the staff members, but did not explain further.

The website of the United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) meanwhile released updated travel advice for those planning to visit Egypt.

The updated statement divided Egypt into three areas and imposed a travel ban on North Sinai. The second area, titled “Travel for Absolute Necessity,” included South Sinai, border areas with Libya, east of the Nile and the Delta. Regarding the third area, the rest of the country, the statement advised UK citizens to refer to the FCO for travel instructions.

Egyptian Interior Ministry spokesperson Hany Abdel Latif told Mada Masr that the embassy demanded new security plans for its premises, and the ministry is currently studying the request.

Abdel Latif denied that the embassy’s decision could be based on security conditions in Egypt, adding that on Saturday he attended a football game with 70,000 spectators and the entire world could see for itself the level of stability in Egypt.

The official explained the embassy’s unexpected decision as an internal matter.    

General Abdel Latif al-Bedeiny, former assistant of the interior minister and crisis management specialist, meanwhile explained to Mada Masr that the decision was alarming as it reflected the way European countries see what is happening in Egypt and emphasize their lack of trust in the level of security within the country.

Bedeiny asserted that all security and intelligence apparatus worldwide base their decision on media reports, adding that if local media continues to exaggerate reports, then we should not be surprised if other diplomatic services take decisions as the British embassy did on Sunday.

The official added that Egypt, excluding North Sinai, is currently witnessing a state of stability quite unlike how the media portrays things.

Bedeiny blamed local media and security apparatus for creating a negative image of the country.

“When the death of a citizen becomes a daily incident and when police violently break up protests,” he claimed, “it is normal for foreign countries to see the situation as threatening to their citizens.”

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