World news story

Drugs leave hundreds of Brits behind bars overseas, including in Croatia

FCO and charity Prisoners Abroad launched a campaign to highlight the consequences of use, possession and smuggling of drugs around the world.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Image of prisoner behind bars

Hundreds of British nationals are currently locked up in prisons across the globe for drug-related offences, often detained for months without trial and facing distressing living conditions. In Croatia, around 21 Brits have been locked up for drugs related offences in the last year.

Now the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), in conjunction with the charity Prisoners Abroad, is launching a campaign to highlight the consequences of the use, possession and smuggling of drugs in Croatia and countries around the world.

The zero-tolerance approach of some countries often results in strict penalties which can come as a shock to British travellers. In Croatia offenders may, in some circumstances, be held on remand for several months before their trial. Even if released on bail, they might not be able to leave the country. Some nations detain offenders for long periods of time, over a year in some cases, before their case is heard.

Offences that may carry cautions in the UK are often penalised with long prison sentences overseas. Some drug crimes can lead to even more severe penalties – 33 countries or territories enforce death sentences for drug offences.

Prisoners Abroad is currently supporting 84 Brits between the ages of 18 and 30 who are being held in foreign countries for drugs offences – 62 are yet to face a trial.

Terry Daniels and Billy Burton are two British nationals that have seen valuable years of their life spent in prisons overseas. Terry was sentenced by a Spanish court to 10 years in prison for drug smuggling on the basis of guilt by association, while Billy was charged with smuggling marijuana out of the Philippines. Both want to see the number of Britons involved in drugs in other countries reduced and have described their experiences in a video called “Drugs: Mess up. Miss out” to warn others not to make their mistakes.

Even in Croatia, the consequences of being detained for a drugs offence can be devastating. Vicki Bates, Her Majesty’s Consul comments:

Being sent to prison overseas away from family and friends is very distressing and even more so if you don’t speak the language. We see people of all ages - from youngsters through to pensioners - who have lost their friends, their job, had to give up their studies or had their children taken into care and got into major financial difficulties because they did not think they would get caught. If you or someone you know is involved with illegal drugs in any way, then the message is clear: the consequences are simply not worth it.

More information on the help you get from the FCO if you are arrested abroad can be found on www.gov.uk - https://www.gov.uk/help-if-you-are-arrested-abroad.

The FCO can The FCO cannot
Issue you with an emergency travel document Help you enter a country if you don’t have a valid passport or necessary visas
Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors Give you legal advice
Contact friends and family back home for you if necessary Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people but will raise concerns if treatment falls below internationally recognised standards
Provide information about transferring funds Pay any bills or give you money
Visit you in hospital or if you have been arrested Make travel arrangements for you
Published 25 November 2013