Top 10 Bizarre Requests for Consular Assistance

With millions of Brits choosing to live outside the UK, it’s unsurprising that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are inundated with calls from desperate Brits stuck in a hospital or prison cell.

What may surprise you, however, is just how many ridiculous requests the FCO receives. Anything from sourcing English bacon to worries about nudists.

The FCO have released what they call their “Top Ten Bizarre Requests”, partly for amusement, partly to highlight to people exactly what services they can proivide.

During 2015 over 500,000 calls were made to the consular services line which is there to provide emergency or legal assistance to Britons who get in trouble abroad.

Of those half a million calls, 3,250 were from Brits who had found themselves hospitalised, 4,770 from Brits who found themselves in a jail cell, and 3,670 from the families of people who had died overseas. As well as dealing with those issues, the office also issued 38,000 replacement travel documents.

Firstly, here is a list of things you should call the FCO for:

  • Arranging to visit British people in hospital
  • Arranging to visit British people in prison
  • Advising on money transfers
  • Assisting those caught up in a crisis situation

This is not an exhaustive list, obviously, but gives you an idea of what they can do.

What they cannot do is get you out of jail if you’ve been arrested, although 74% of Brits* thought they could. They cannot necessarily arrange travel home for you if you have lost your tickets, although 22% of those surveyed thought they could. And they will not lend you money if yours is lost or stolen, which 15% of those surveyed assumed they could.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister James Duddridge said: “Our consular staff are a helpful bunch and do an amazing job helping out Brits in trouble around the world – but it is important that people remember they are there to help with genuine emergencies and not as an alternative to directory enquiries.

“Every minute they spend handling a call requesting advice on butlers or nudists is time taken away from dealing with life and death cases, so I urge the public to think before picking up the phone.”

So, here is the FCO’s Top Ten Bizarre Requests

  • a man planning to move to Spain called because he was worried he may encounter nudists on the streets
  • a hungry expat called to ask where he could buy English bacon
  • a lady in Lebanon asked for assistance in recruiting an English butler
  • a holidaymaker called looking for Travel Advice for a visit to Coventry
  • a European filmmaker needed an English pensioner for a part in his film and thought the FCO could help
  • a woman arrived in Russia and was upset that the Embassy didn’t send someone to show her around St. Petersburg
  • a British man asking for assistance to get illegal employment in Singapore
  • a mother asked for the contact details of a young British YouTuber, as her son was a fan of his Minecraft videos
  • a confused businessman looking for information on the construction of plug sockets
  • a man in South Korea asking what he could do with his old pound notes

* Research from the UK Travel Habit Tracking Research Report, September 2015

Evac plan denied by Foreign Office

Following recent press reports about the preparation of evacuation plans for expats the British Government has stated that this is not true.

Reports alleged that the government was drawing up plans to rescue Brits stranded in Spain in the event of a banking collapse.

The story, which appeared in several newspapers (and on here), originally published by the Sunday Times, allegedly caused  panic amongst expats along the coast.

The reports said the Foreign Office had begun putting contingency plans in place to provide assistance to thousands of Britons if they were unable to access their money should the Spanish banking system collapse.

The Foreign Office stated that it is concerned that people who have invested savings could face losing their homes in Spain if banks called in loans and they were unable to access money. They added that they are always looking at plans for bringing expats home in the event of a catastrophe but no new plans had been drawn up.

Rescue plan for Brits

Officials within the British Foreign Office are considering how to help thousands of British nationals in Andalucía should the Spanish economy collapse.

Over 1 million Brits live in Spain with the majority being in Andalucía. A large proportion have retired to Spain and are on fixed incomes putting them in a vulnerable position and it is these people that are causing the most concern.

If the crisis in Spain continues to escalate and the banking system collapses there is a fear that Spanish banks may stop clients from withdrawing cash from their own accounts leaving them stranded and without access to money.

Among the Foreign Office’s plans are options to send ships, planes and coaches to help evacuate stricken Brits via Gibraltar and also to hand out emergency cash.

“The nuclear scenario would be having thousands of Brits stranded at the airports in Spain and Portugal with no way to get money from the cash dispenser and no way to get home,” a Foreign Office official said.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor lowered the credit rating of 10 Spanish banks last week and hinted at the risk of further downgrades.