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Brits still getting into trouble overseas, FO says

The number of Britons arrested overseas fell by more than 10% in the past year, the UK FO said.

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The Philippines was the country in which Britons were most likely to require assistance, when visitor and resident numbers are taken into account, followed, in order, by Thailand, Pakistan, Cyprus, India and Spain. In terms of actual numbers, though, Spain topped the list for Britons in trouble –   with 4,971 cases requiring consular assistance – down 5.9% from the previous year.

Though down by 20% overall, drug arrests continue to be a significant problem for Brits in some countries, particularly in parts of South America and the Caribbean, where a high proportion of total arrests are drug related, the annual British Behaviour Abroad report showed.

And even though fewer Britons travelled abroad during the past year, the number of those hospitalised abroad grew by 1.7% to 3,752 cases, the FO noted. A total of 5,972 died abroad, up slightly from 5,930 the previous year; lost and stolen passports fell slightly, to 25,969.

Foreign Office minister David Lidington said the decline in arrests was “really encouraging”, but took the opportunity of the unveiling of the report’s findings to remind Britons who are either abroad now, or who are planning to be, that prison conditions in some countries are “very poor, overcrowded, and in some cases, dangerous”. 

More help sought in Thailand, Greece, Cyprus, UAE

In terms of total numbers of cases in which British nationals required assistance, Spain, the US and France remained the top three countries, in that order, just as they were in 2010 and 2009. 

However, Thailand moved into fourth place from fifth last year and sixth the year before, while Greece climbed to fifth from seventh, Cyprus moved to seventh from 10th place, and the UAE climbed to 11th from 16th place. (see chart, below.) Things must have been quiet in New Zealand last year, as it fell out of the top 20 altogether in the year ending 31st March, after being in sixth place last year and 14th the year before.

Switzerland, the Philippines and Sweden moved into the top 20 last year, displacing, in addition to New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland.

Other trends highlighted in the report:

• 43% of 18- to 24-year-olds know someone who has taken illegal drugs while abroad
• two-thirds of British citizens "don’t always" find out about the laws of the country they are to visit before they leave
• nearly a third (32%) of people are not aware that they will always be prosecuted under local laws if arrested abroad, with 6% thinking they will be prosecuted under UK law
• The number of rape cases in Greece almost halved since 2009/2010, to 15 from 27, although the numbers of sexual assault cases there rose significantly
• The number of Brits hospitalised abroad has increased, with Spain handling the most cases (1,024) followed by Greece.  Proportionally, though, Brits are most likely to be hospitalised in Thailand
• In total Foreign Office staff handled 19,228 serious consular cases last year

To view the British Behaviour Abroad report on the Foreign Office’s website, click here.  To see last year’s report, click here. To access the Foreign Office’s country-by-country advice page, click here.

    Top 20 countries in which British nationals required the most consular help,1 April 2010 – 31 March 2011
Rank Country Total consular assistance cases Rank in
2009/2010
1 Spain 4,971 1
2 USA 1,673 2
3 France 1,283 3
4 Thailand    967 5
5 Greece    797 7
6 Germany    670 4
7 Cyprus    562 10
8 Turkey    454 13
9 Australia    443 8
10 Portugal    418 11
11 UAE    382 16
12 Italy    349 14
13 India    338 15
14 Egypt    322 17
15 China    309 9
16 Pakistan    245 20
17 Canada    234 19
18 Switzerland    191  –
19 Philippines    171  –
20 Sweden    167  –
 Source: Foreign & Commonwealth Office, British Behaviour Abroad Report, 2011

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