It is still safe for tourists to travel to Rhodes following UK government advice, a cabinet minister has said, adding that he plans to go on holiday to another Greek island next week.
Michael Gove spoke amid ongoing Foreign Office scrutiny of the wildfire-stricken island’s categorization and pressure to change it so tourists can get refunds for their trips through their travel insurance.
The flights took some of the 10,000 British tourists stranded on the island, where wildfires are raging in its mountainous interior and threatening some resorts.
“We need to support the Greek government in dealing with the situation in Rhodes. My heart goes out to those affected. But I think the advice is clear. If you follow the advice of the Foreign Office, it will be safe,” Gove said.
The minister, who said he believed the travel companies were acting responsibly, told Times Radio: “I think it’s the case that … the fires are contained to one part of the island.”
Gove said he planned to go on holiday to the Greek island of Evia next week, telling Sky News: “Actually, I should go on holiday, God willing, to Greece for more than a week, not to Rhodes but to another island and I’m looking forward to going.”
The island is one of the parts of Greece where wildfires have broken out.
Of the many fires that broke out across the country over the weekend, one of the worst was in Evia, where people living in four villages in the south were told by authorities to evacuate to a town.
The government is under pressure from Labor MPs and Liberal Democrats, who said on Monday that Rhodes should be added to the “red list” of places where the Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel.
“Many families are unable to claim against their insurance – leaving them paying the penalty for deciding not to fly to the island,” said Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokeswoman.
Travel companies that continue to fly tourists to Rhodes were accused of “making money” by a senior Conservative on Monday, who backed calls for a change in official travel advice.
“I know there is a statutory duty for the government to repatriate British citizens if they are in trouble, but travel companies should fulfill their obligations instead of making a profit from trips that bring tourists, and then leave and let the government arrange how to get them home in some cases,” said Alicia Kearns, the chairman of the parliament’s foreign affairs select committee.