Press release

17,000 British nationals abroad supported by Foreign Office last year

New report reveals the difficulties British nationals faced abroad in 2014/15 and offers advice on staying safe this summer

Consular staff supported more than 17,000 British nationals who needed serious assistance abroad in 2014/15, figures have revealed.

The new Helping British Nationals Abroad report published today also shows the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued almost 38,000 emergency travel documents to help people return to the UK.

A global network of British embassies, high commissions and consulates handled over 470,000 enquiries, and FCO staff supported British nationals in 15 crisis situations across the world. This comes at a time when British nationals are travelling abroad more often. In 2014 British nationals made over 60 million trips overseas*, and more than 5 million are estimated to live abroad.

Grant Shapps, Minister for Consular Affairs, launched the report today (30 July) as he visited the British Consulate and Global Contact Centre in Malaga to meet consular staff at the frontline of supporting British people abroad. He said:

Every day our dedicated staff are out helping British nationals across the globe. From making hospital visits and contacting friends and family in the UK, through to supporting grieving families or providing emergency travel documents so people can get home.

This report provides an insight into what consular staff do every day. But it also offers important advice on how people can take responsibility for their own safety abroad, from checking the FCO travel advice and taking out comprehensive travel insurance to researching the country and health risks before travelling.

Most of us can look forward to a fantastic, trouble-free holiday this summer. But for those who do find themselves in difficulty, the FCO will continue to provide a crucial source of support.

Key trends from this year’s report include a 12% fall in arrests and 11% fall in reported deaths. Hospitalisations increased by 3%. Mental health cases have increased by almost 50% in the last five years, so this is an area of increasing focus for consular staff.

Other key findings in ‘Helping British Nationals Abroad’:

  • the FCO provided serious consular assistance to 17,058 people from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015, a fall of over 2% on 2013/14

  • this included 3,670 deaths, 3,250 hospitalisations, 4,770 arrests, 252 reported rape and sexual assault cases and 499 cases involving British nationals with mental health needs

  • FCO staff issued 37,890 emergency travel documents, with 20,663 British nationals reporting their passport as lost or stolen

  • drug arrests fell by 39% in Australia and 63% in Canada compared to 2013/14, though some countries saw an increase in cases

  • the highest volume of cases involving British nationals with mental health needs were recorded in Spain (67) France (50) and the USA (33)

Further information can be found in Helping British Nationals Abroad.

What can the FCO do for people who have problems when travelling abroad?

The FCO can: The FCO cannot:
Issue you with an emergency travel document Help you enter a country if you do not have a valid passport or necessary visas
Provide information about transferring money Give you legal advice or translate documents
Provide help if you have suffered rape or serious sexual or physical assault, are a victim of crime, are ill or in hospital Investigate crimes or get you out of prison
Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people, but we will raise concerns if treatment falls below internationally recognised standards
Contact you if you are detained abroad Pay any bills or give you money
Contact friends and family back home for you if you wish Make travel arrangements for you
Provide help in cases of forced marriage  
Assist people affected by parental child abduction  

*Travel Trends 2014, Office for National Statistics

Further information

If you would like further information about this press release please contact 0207 781 2342 or

The FCO ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign targets a number of audiences, from gap year students to package holidaymakers; sports fans to older travellers and people visiting friends and family abroad. The campaign works with more than 400 travel industry partners to communicate its messages. For more information visit our Know Before You Go page.

If you have any enquiries for FCO consular staff before you go or while abroad you can use the FCO’s Twitter service @FCOtravel. This adds to the ways that British people travelling or living overseas can already get in touch with the FCO: by emailing our travel advice team or contacting local consular staff.

You can keep up-to-date with the latest FCO travel advice by signing up to the FCO’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.