Friday, February 1, 2008

Why did Brits need consular help in 2007?

Why did British nationals need help from their embassy in 2007? The FCO wants you to know.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice typically contains a point in the summary about how many British nationals travel to a country and why they need consular assistance. Here are the top 5 most reasons I see the most often:

1. Lost or stolen passports - the most common reason Brits needed assistance worldwide.
2. Arrests or detentions - usually from drug offenses or alcohol-related incidences.
3. Deaths - usually from natural causes.
4. Hospitalizations
5. Victims of petty crime - usually tied to loss of passport.

Of course, there are many other reasons and many of those reasons are country or region-specific. For example, help avoiding arranged marriages was an issue for a dozen cases in Bangladesh. Some British citizens needed help with proper documentation for marriage in Belarus. Kidnappings and child abductions were issues in some countries like Nigeria. Nigeria also had an unusually high incidence of people becoming victims of scam artists (about 600 cases, according to the advice).

Often the travel advice will say "most visits are trouble free", but it's interesting to find out why people needed help. As you can see, many of the issues can be avoided with extra precautions such as taking care to protect your valuables, keeping a close eye on your travel documents and not becoming involved in illegal activities.

As far as I can tell, the FCO is the only government to include these points in its travel advice for every country. It's worth a look, even for other nationals. It's also a good idea to take your embassy's contact information with you (including emergency contact) in case you do run into trouble.

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