British tourists return to Sharm el-Sheikh after flight ban

Two British flights have arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, the first English charter flights since a 2015 ban was enforced following the bombing of a Russian airplane. One came from London Gatwick Airport with 184 passengers and one from Manchester Airport with 190 passengers on board. The two planes were received by pilot Khaled Abdel Salam, director of Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, a group of leaders from the South Sinai Governorate, and a number of officials from the Egyptian Airports Company. A team of public relations personnel at the Egyptian Company for Airports also received passengers with flowers and distributed souvenirs and brochures for the most important tourist attractions in Sharm el-Sheikh, as well as playing music, and providing entertainment in the international arrival hall. Their arrival came amid disturbing stories about British tourists in Egypt.

In 2017 a four-year-old boy drowned in an Egyptian hotel swimming pool after getting through a gap in a barrier that separated the children’s and adult’s zones. Isaac Webster was on holiday with parents Kelly and Andy and his brother Leo in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada. When his mum couldn’t find him, she anxiously alerted a nearby lifeguard and they searched the area, but Kelly then saw her child floating in the water. He was rushed from the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel, which Thomas Cook said they did not own or control, to a hospital after 20 minutes of CPR by staff. At the Nile Hospital Isaac was placed on a ventilator and showed signs he was improving but was still seriously ill. The following day his condition dangerously dipped with a severe chest infection and difficulties controlling his temperature. Isaac died the next day. In the hospital, the family was visited by officials from the British Embassy and the Egyptian Police. Alan Moore, Cheshire’s senior coroner, described Isaac as a “fit, healthy and very active four-year-old. It’s likely he’d made his way between the two pools through the gap in the barrier.” The cause of death was recorded as respiratory failure due to drowning. Following the tragedy, devastated friends and family managed to raise £11,000, more than double the original £5,000 target. The website was set up to help raise funds to bring Isaac’s body home and pay for funeral costs and bills for the bereaved family.

On 8 February this year Egyptian authorities’ arrested a British tourist after accusing him of sexually harassing a security guard at Hurghada Airport. He has been finally granted release on bail of EGP 20,000 by the prosecution in Hurghada on Saturday. Tony Remo Camoccio, 51, was arrested at Hurghada International Airport last week after allegedly sexually assaulting a police officer, but his family claims it was actually a gentle pat on the back that landed him in detention. According to a social media page set up to plead his case, “he was at a final checkpoint where he was, as a standard procedure for all outbound passengers, patted down by a security officer. Tony then gently patted the officer’s back, and is now facing serious accusations.”

Egyptian officials maintained that Camoccio made sexual gestures at a police officer, and claimed CCTV footage supported their version of events. “We checked with the police surveillance system – the passenger molested the police officer who was checking him at security. When this was investigated, they checked CCTV and saw that what the policeman said is true,” said Samia Mossad, a manager at the airport. She said the officer declined to tell her specifically how Camoccio had inappropriately touched him, due to an unwillingness to describe the incident to a woman. But, she declined a request by the Guardian to view the CCTV footage, which she said was “classified information.” Camoccio’s family say Hurghada Airport withheld CCTV footage that would clear his name. The Egyptian pro-government website Cairo24 quoted a police source as saying the “tourist didn’t follow the law, and made sexual gestures to one of the police officers who was maintaining public order.” It added that this resulted in an argument inside the airport where others intervened to end the dispute. The officer in question then “insisted on implementing the law.” Egyptian authorities say they are taking steps to eliminate harassment, including imposing a fine on those who pester tourists at attractions throughout the country. A United Nations study published in 2013 revealed that “99.3 per cent of Egyptian girls and women surveyed reported some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime.” Egyptian prosecutors ordered that Camoccio be detained for four days pending investigation. His family said his detention was then extended for a further 15 days, but he has not been charged. On the Facebook page supporting Camoccio, his family said, “the police are very uncooperative and are withholding evidence that would clear Tony of any wrongdoing.”

Tourism has slowly returned to Egyptian resorts such as Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh after a four- year drop in numbers following the 2015 downing of a Russian passenger plane in South Sinai. An estimated 9 million tourists visited Egypt in 2018. A British tourist, Laura Plummer, was detained at Hurghada Airport in 2017 and served 13 months in prison after a scan of her bag revealed she was carrying 290 tablets of the painkiller Tramadol, a controlled substance in Egypt.