Britons continue to get into trouble abroad
The latest annual British Behaviour Abroad report reveals Britons are continuing to get into trouble abroad, with key concerns including drink and drug related cases.
The report, based on incident figures from our offices around the world, reveals that over the period April 08 – March 09, 5,430 Britons needed consular assistance in Spain. There were 1,534 British arrests in the USA, 2,446 passports were lost or stolen in Australia and 433 Britons were hospitalised in Greece. In addition to assistance cases, our staff around the world dealt with 2.1m consular enquiries last year.
Foreign Office Minister, Chris Bryant, said: "The report highlights just how many British nationals encounter difficulties whilst abroad. Helping those who do get into trouble is a vital part of our job, but so many of the problems we deal with can be avoided with a little bit of preparation. Researching the local laws and customs before you travel could avoid time in a foreign jail. Getting comprehensive travel insurance means that whilst an accident may disrupt your holiday, it won’t bankrupt you in extortionate medical or repatriation bills.
The message is clear - have a great time while you’re away, but make the necessary preparations before you go."
The report, which helps to provide us with a clear understanding of where resources should be best deployed, also highlights some of the key issues currently facing British nationals abroad. These problems show the importance of the our ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign which offers advice to British nationals on how to prepare properly for their foreign travel so they can avoid preventable problems. The campaign works with over 300 travel industry partners to communicate travel advice in a variety of ways.
Arrests and drug offences
2,290 Britons were arrested in Spain last year, significantly more than any other country. However as a proportion of the number of visitors, Britons were most likely to be arrested in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (294) followed by Thailand (202) and the USA (1,534). Arrests for drugs offences formed a significant percentage of these arrests, contributing to a quarter of the total arrests in Thailand.
There were 991 total arrests for drug offences worldwide which accounted for around a fifth of all arrestable offences. Topless sunbathing, swearing and public displays of affection can also lead to arrest in some countries. This highlights the need for Britons to ensure they carefully research the area to which they are travelling. Local laws and customs can vary from the UK significantly and ignorance of these laws can lead to more severe punishments than in the UK.
Hospitalisations and deaths
The highest number of hospitalisations occurred in Spain (741), followed by Greece (433), France (203) and Thailand (198). As a proportion of the number of visitors, Britons were most likely to be hospitalised in Thailand, followed by Greece, Egypt and India. The FCO embassies commented that many of these hospitalisations were due to moped and motorbike accidents as well as drink-related incidents such as balcony falls. In a separate survey commissioned by the FCO, a third (33%) of holidaymakers from the UK admitted to drinking more whilst on holiday. All of these incidents escalate over the summer months with the increase in consumption of alcohol and drugs.
There were 5,629 reported deaths of UK citizens abroad including natural causes, accidental deaths and murders. We recommend visiting your GP as early as possible before travel to obtain any necessary vaccinations or medication. If you’re going to be driving, it is advised that you familiarise yourself with the rules of the road, the condition of the roads and whether the general style of driving is different from the UK. If you’re hiring a car always do so from a reputable company.
Lost or stolen passports were by far the most frequent problem encountered by British tourists with 29,774 reported incidents worldwide. 7,548 passports were lost or stolen in Spain, 3,228 in the USA, 2,446 in Australia, 1,932 in France, 990 in Germany and 871 in South Africa. We recommend photocopying important documents such as your passport and storing them separately from the originals to speed up the replacement processes. Various countries also reported an increase in scams and thefts of British passports so travellers are advised to stay vigilant.