The latest Helping British Nationals Abroad report also shows the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued almost 38,000 emergency travel documents to help people return to the UK. A global network of British embassies, high commissions and consulates handled over 470,000 enquiries, and FCO staff supported British nationals in 15 crisis situations across the world. This comes at a time when British nationals are travelling abroad more often – in 2014, British nationals made over 60 million trips overseas, and more than five million are estimated to live abroad.
Grant Shapps, Minister for Consular Affairs, launched the report as he visited the British Consulate and Global Contact Centre in Malaga to meet consular staff at the frontline of supporting British people abroad. He said: “Every day our dedicated staff are out helping British nationals across the globe. From making hospital visits and contacting friends and family in the UK, through to supporting grieving families or providing emergency travel documents so people can get home.” He added: “This report provides an insight into what consular staff do every day. But it also offers important advice on how people can take responsibility for their own safety abroad, from checking the FCO travel advice and taking out comprehensive travel insurance to researching the country and health risks before travelling.”
Key trends from this year’s report include a 12-per-cent fall in arrests and an 11-per-cent fall in reported deaths. Hospitalisations, however, increased by three per cent. Mental health cases have increased by almost 50 per cent in the last five years, so this is an area of increasing focus for consular staff.
Other key findings of the Helping British Nationals Abroad report include:
· The FCO provided serious consular assistance to 17,058 people from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015, a fall of over two per cent from 2013/14.
· This included 3,670 deaths, 3,250 hospitalisations, 4,770 arrests, 252 reported rape and sexual assault cases and 499 cases involving British nationals with mental health needs.
· FCO staff issued 37,890 emergency travel documents, with 20,663 British nationals reporting their passport as lost or stolen.
· Drug arrests fell by 39 per cent in Australia and 63 per cent in Canada compared to 2013/14, though some countries saw an increase in cases.
· The highest volume of cases involving British nationals with mental health needs was recorded in Spain (67) France (50) and the US (33).