News story

Foreign Office releases figures on Brits in trouble overseas

The number of Britons arrested overseas has fallen by over 10%, but despite this positive trend Foreign Office staff still handled 5,700 arrest cases last year.

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

Though down by 20% overall, Drug arrests continue to be a significant problem for some countries, particularly parts of South America and the Caribbean where a high proportion of total arrests are drug related.

Foreign Office Minister David Lidington said:

“We work hard to warn British nationals about the consequences of breaking the law abroad so it is really encouraging to see the overall number of cases of arrests and drug arrests falling. But last year there were still 5700 arrests of British nationals overseas. Prison conditions in some parts of the world can be very poor, overcrowded and, in some cases, dangerous and sentences can be much tougher than in the UK. People are mistaken if they think the Foreign Office can get you out of jail. We can’t, but we will work hard to try and ensure your safety, and that you get a fair trial.”

Foreign Office research reveals that:

  • 43% of 18-24 year olds know someone who has taken illegal drugs whilst abroad. It also showed that two thirds of people in Britain don’t always find out about the laws of the country they are visiting before they go abroad - putting themselves at risk of unknowingly breaking the law.

  • nearly a third (32%) of people are not aware that they will always be prosecuted under local law if they break the law abroad - with 6% of people thinking they will be prosecuted under UK law, 22% thinking it depends on the country they are in and 4% admitted to not knowing at all.

Aside from arrests, the British Behaviour Abroad report published today shows that the number of Brits hospitalised abroad has increased to 3,752 cases, despite fewer people from the UK travelling abroad last year. Medical treatment abroad can be very expensive and to avoid being faced with large bills if taken ill or after having an accident, the Foreign Office is urging people to take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy before they go away this summer. Previous research suggests that 15% of Britons travel abroad uninsured.

Other key findings:

  • Spain continues to be the country where most Britons require assistance (4,971 cases) but when you take visitor and resident numbers into account, you are most likely to need consular assistance in the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan
  • The number of rape cases in Greece almost halved since 2009-10 from 27 to 15, although the numbers of sexual assault cases rose significantly
  • The number of Brits hospitalised abroad has increased with Spain handling the most cases (1,024) followed by Greece. Proportionally Brits are most likely to be hospitalised in Thailand
  • In total Foreign Office staff handled 19,228 serious consular cases last year View the full report (PDF)

This video shows incidents in a real 24 hour period from midnight to midnight UK time on 27 June 2011. The incidents range from routine enquiries to work on serious incidents.


Updates to this page

Published 25 August 2011