Press release

New figures reveal FCO assisted over 19,000 Brits last year

FCO report shows Government helping thousands of Brits in trouble abroad every year

Official figures released today as part of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s (FCO’s) annual British Behaviour Abroad Report 2013 showed that consular staff gave assistance to more than 19,000 Brits in need in 2012/13. Overall total assistance figures showed a slight drop of 3% but some countries saw big increases in more serious types of case.

To see the number of Brits needing consular assistance abroad mapped, visit Britons in trouble abroad map

Every year consular staff around the world support thousands of British nationals who find themselves in difficulties. In 2012/13 staff in some countries, including Spain and the USA, continued to deal with thousands of cases, while a number of countries including India, United Arab Emirates and the Philippines saw an increase in serious cases such as arrests and hospitalisations – demonstrating the importance for travellers to respect local laws and customs and take out comprehensive travel insurance. Overall arrests of Brits abroad for drug offences dropped to their lowest level for four years, with a decrease of 34% since 2009/10 and general arrests and detentions showed a 21% drop in the same period. However, in the 2012/13 period 3,599 British people were hospitalised and there were over 6,000 deaths of British people abroad.

Spain, the country most popular with British tourists and expatriates, has seen a significant decrease in arrests, detentions and hospitalisation cases – mainly due to local initiatives involving our staff, police and hospital authorities.

However, reported rape and sexual assault cases increased by 10% compared to 2011/12. The three countries in which the largest number of cases were reported were Spain, Turkey and Greece – destinations popular with young Brits for their busy nightlife.

Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister Mark Simmonds, said:

I am proud that our staff continue to offer vital support to thousands of British travellers and residents around the world. Each case can represent great distress for the individuals concerned and for their families. I encourage all British travellers to do everything they can to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip by taking some basic steps to prepare themselves before departure, including taking out comprehensive travel insurance and researching their destination.

I am deeply concerned to see an increase in the number of reported rape and sexual assault cases involving British people. The priority for our consular staff is the safety and wellbeing of British travellers and we will continue to work, including with other Governments and tour operators, to help to prevent further cases and provide all possible support for victims. This support includes explaining local procedures, accompanying people to the police station, helping them deal with local authorities and medical staff and contacting friends and family at home if that is wanted.

A number of other key findings are highlighted in the report, including:

  • Some countries including Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Australia and India have seen an increase in hospitalisations. Posts have reported a mix of cases but many have involved older expats or tourists with pre-existing medical conditions getting into difficulty and requiring treatment after arriving in the country
  • Thailand has seen a significant increase in hospitalisations (31%) and deaths (31%), despite fewer cases worldwide. Road traffic accidents, many involving young people on mopeds, and an ageing expat population are both factors attributed to the increase in cases
  • Alcohol continues to be a major factor in cases involving young people visiting the Balearics, Turkey and Greek islands
  • Although drug arrests have gone down, drugs remain a problem for many countries, including Jamaica, France and Portugal
  • Despite the significant drop in general arrest and detention cases, countries including Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates have seen an increase in cases

The FCO is urging people to remember three key things before they go away this summer:

  • Get comprehensive travel insurance – read the small print, declare pre-existing medical conditions and make sure it covers you for everything you want to do
  • Check health requirements – so you can get the right vaccinations and take any necessary medication such as anti-malaria tablets
  • Research your destination – the more clued up you are, the smoother your trip will be and the less likely you are to find yourself on the wrong side of foreign laws

Please refer to the British Behaviour Abroad report 2013 for further data

For details on how the FCO can help if you get into trouble abroad, please visit Know Before You Go

The FCO is encouraging people to sign up to Facebook and Twitter feeds

Further information

For further information, interviews or case studies please contact the Know Before You Go team on 0207 478 7840 or fcoteam@grayling.com

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

The FCO can: The FCO can’t:
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
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

Notes to editors

  • The FCO’s Know Before You Go campaign encourages British nationals to prepare for their foreign travel so they can avoid preventable problems. A full holiday checklist can be found at foreign travel checklist

  • We encourage anyone who is a victim of rape or sexual assault overseas to contact their nearest embassy or consulate for support. There are contact details for embassies on the FCO website

  • The 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 around 600 travel industry partners to communicate its messages. For more information visit Know Before You Go

  • The British Behaviour Abroad report does not include the number of cases handled during crisis situations, as they are recorded differently.

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