Stranded French tourists likely to foot rescue bill

PARIS: French tourists heading to risky foreign destinations could be asked

to foot the bill if the French government comes to their rescue.

A draft law proposed by the foreign minister would oblige travellers

to reimburse air fare

and other costs incurred to rescue them from

war zones, hostage-takings and other hostile


Officials say it’s aimed at promoting responsibility among at a time

of rampant piracy

and kidnappings across the globe.

Critics, however, believe the measure would unlikely prevent hot-headed travelersting into trouble in dangerous corners of the world and say the government must protect its citizens, no matter what.

The Foreign Ministry says the measure will

not affect cases like that of Clotilde Reiss, a 24-year-old French teacher on trial in Iran freed Sunday on bail of about Euro 2 lakhs paid by the French government.

The ministry says the bill, presented by Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner last month, would apply only to leisure-seeking tourists and their travel agencies, but not to diplomats, reporters, aid workers and others engaged in professional activity abroad.

As one example of the costs involved, a Foreign Ministry official said the government paid Euro 720,000 to fly home 500 tourists stranded in Thailand amid civil unrest in late 2008. He spoke on condition of anonymity.