The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has released statistics of the different ways in which it stepped in to assist travellers over the course of 2011, which makes for interesting reading. Mandy Aitchison has the details
From April 2010 to March 2011, the FCO dealt with 1.79 million consular enquiries, and supported some 45,197 Britons in difficulty abroad, from visiting those who had been hospitalised or arrested, to rescuing citizens from forced marriages. As an indication of the types of cases the FCO deals with, over the given period, nearly 5,000 Britons required consular assistance in Spain, there were 1,272 arrests in the US and 347 deaths in Thailand (of which 60 per cent were from natural causes).
The highest number of hospitalisations occurred in Spain (1,024), with 452 Brits hospitalised in Greece, 246 in Thailand, 228 in France, 150 in the US and 143 in Turkey. The FCO warned: “Many of these hospitalisations were due to moped and motorbike accidents as well as drink-related incidents such as balcony falls. All of these incidents escalate over the summer months with the increase in consumption of alcohol and drugs.” There were 5,972 reported deaths of UK citizens abroad between April 2010 and March last year, from a mixture of causes including natural, accidental death and murder.
Regarding arrests and drug offences, 1,745 Britons were arrested in Spain alone last year, significantly more than any other country. Globally, though, arrests for drugs offences formed a major percentage of the total, and contributed to almost a quarter of the total number of arrests in Thailand. There were 799 arrests for drug offences worldwide, which accounted for around a seventh of all arrestable offences.
The figures from the FCO show that lost or stolen passports were by far the most frequent problem encountered by British tourists with 25,969 reported incidents worldwide. Tourists are being urged to photocopy important documents such as their passport and store them separately from the originals.