Help for British nationals arrested abroad

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) or the nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate can give advice on local laws and procedures, contact friends and family and help find a lawyer.

The person arrested or detained should contact the nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate as soon as possible - the police might also do this on their behalf.

The British embassy, high commission or consulate will contact the arrested person within 24 hours of being told about the arrest and try to visit them as soon as possible.

The British consulate will also arrange for friends and family to be told:

  • the person’s been arrested
  • details of the arrest
  • contact details for the arrested person

The FCO can only give out this information if the arrested person has given their permission.

Help available

The FCO and British consulate can offer help to arrested persons or prisoners. This includes:

  • providing general information about the country, prison conditions and the local legal system (including if legal aid is available)
  • providing a list of local lawyers and interpreters
  • telling the police or prison doctor about any medical or dental problems with the arrested person’s permission
  • helping with complaints about the police or prison (eg, ill treatment, personal safety, discrimination) with the arrested person or prisoner’s permission
  • sending money to the arrested person from their family
  • sending messages between the arrested person and their family
  • putting the prisoners in touch with the charity Prisoners Abroad
  • helping British prisoners apply for a transfer to UK where possible
  • visiting prisoners when needed

Download prisoner packs and other helpful information

The FCO has produced guides explaining the legal and prison system in different countries for British nationals arrested abroad.

Read more about how the FCO can help someone arrested abroad.

What the FCO and British consulate can’t do

The FCO and British consulate won’t be able to:

  • get someone out of prison or detention
  • help someone get special treatment
  • offer legal advice, start legal proceedings or investigate a crime
  • pay for any costs as a result of being arrested
  • forward packages sent by friends or family to an arrested person or prisoner
  • prevent authorities from deporting a British national after release

Dual nationals

The FCO and British consulate can help a dual British national (with a valid British passport) as long as they’re arrested in a country other than the one they hold dual nationality with.

They won’t get involved if someone’s arrested in a country for which they hold a valid passport, unless there’s a special humanitarian reason to do so.

Other organisations that can help

Further help and advice is available from: