Britons stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh 'will be home by the end of the week'


All Britons stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh following a plane crash 11 days ago should be home by the end of this week, the Foreign Secretary has said.

Thousands of holidaymakers remain in the popular Egyptian resort, held up after the decision to suspend routine air links and increase security measures in the wake of the crash that killed all 224 people on board.

A total of 2,301 passengers returned to the UK on Monday on 11 flights from the Egyptian resort.

Asked during a press conference in Washington DC about the delays for Britons trying to get back to the UK compared to other countries, Philip Hammond said the Government had insisted on "some very significant increased security requirements" to ensure the safety of passengers.

He said: "That has caused some delays and sort of backups in what is quite a small airport operating quite close to its capacity.

"There have been more Russian flights going out than flights to the UK. Russia has far more people in the resort than the UK does and the Russians, as far as I'm aware, have not insisted on the additional security measures that we have imposed."

Mr Hammond said they are happy with how the process is going.

"By the end of this week, we expect to have cleared the backlog. So in the circumstances, the repatriation is going smoothly."

Investigators are understood to be 90% sure a noise picked up by the cockpit voice recorder in the final seconds of the flight was the sound of an explosion caused by a bomb.

The Russian plane which crashed on October 31 - an Airbus 321 - was still gaining altitude as it disintegrated 23 minutes after take-off.

Mr Hammond has already warned that airport security around the world will have to be overhauled if it was confirmed the crash in the Sinai was caused by an Islamic State (IS) bomb.

The head of easyJet has added her voice to the call for a global tightening of airport security.

Carolyn McCall told the BBC: "I think that in some airports security is very tight and very strict, British airports do security very well.

"(But) I think Philip Hammond is right to point out that there are other countries that airlines fly to where it perhaps needs to be tightened."

Ms McCall said there are specific airports which need to heed the message: "It's not a blanket message, it's a very specific message about certain airports around the world."

She said she shares the frustrations of passengers stuck at the resort or airport and assured them they will be well looked after while they wait to return home.

While security has been stepped up at the airport, concerns have been raised over the use of bomb detectors at some hotels in the resort which it is claimed offer "no protection" against terrorism.

The devices are reportedly being used by security guards at a number of hotels in the popular tourist resort, in the wake of the Russian plane crash that killed all 224 people on board.

The "wand-like aerial" attached to a box was waved over cars and luggage, the Sun reported.

The Foreign Office said it will continue to raise concerns about the devices.

A spokeswoman said: "Across the resort, airport style scanners, sniffer dogs, body searches, metal detectors, private security, police and CCTV are being used to keep tourists safe.

"We will continue to raise our concerns over the use of the devices in question.

"While we have updated our advice on travelling to Sharm el-Sheik by air, we have not changed the threat level for the resort."

The detection devices used at the hotels appear to be based on those which came to prominence in recent years when a number of people in the UK were convicted in connection with fake bomb detectors, security analyst Paul Beaver told the Sun.

He said: "IS operatives planning an attack would be wise to them (the devices) and would know instantly that they offer no protection at checkpoints.

"It's doubly disturbing that these devices seem to be a version of the gadget exposed as a crude con trick two years ago."

In 2013 conman James McCormick from Somerset was jailed for 10 years after being found guilty of three offences of fraud, having sold fake bomb detectors to Iraq.

The same year Gary Bolton from Kent was jailed for seven years over the sale of more than 1,000 useless detectors which he claimed could track down bombs, drugs, ivory and money.