According to official British government figures, it seems British tourists are -at last- learning to behave themselves, as the number of Britons arrested abroad has fallen by over 10%, this is according to the new Foreign and Commonwealth Office British Behaviour Abroad report. Drug arrests have fallen more dramatically, they were down nearly 20% during the past 12 months.
Although this is a positive trend, Foreign Office staff still had to deal with 5,700 arrest cases last year with Spain and the USA showing the highest figures. Drug arrests, sadly, continue to be a significant problem in some countries, particularly parts of South America and the Caribbean where a high proportion of total arrests were still related to drugs.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office report, which reveals the number of consular cases handled worldwide from 1 April 2010 – 31 March 2011, gives a unique insight into the number of Britons who get into difficulty overseas.
Minister for Europe, David Lidington, said: “We work hard to warn British nationals about the consequences of breaking the law abroad so it is encouraging to see the overall number of cases of arrests and drug arrests falling. But last year there were still 5,700 arrests of British nationals overseas.
“Prison conditions in some parts of the world can be very poor, overcrowded and, in some cases, dangerous and sentences can be much tougher than in the UK. People are mistaken if they think the Foreign Office can get you out of jail. We can’t, but we will work hard to try and ensure your safety, and that you get a fair trial.”
New consumer research launched by the Foreign Office showed that 43% of 18-24 year olds know someone who has taken illegal drugs whilst abroad. It also showed over two thirds (69%) of people in Britain don’t always find out about the laws of the country they are visiting before they go abroad – putting themselves at risk of unknowingly breaking the laws of those countries.
Even more worryingly almost one third (32%) of people are unaware they will always be prosecuted under local law if they break the law in a foreign country! 6% of people thought they would be prosecuted under UK law, 22% though it would depend on the country they were in and 4% admitted to not knowing at all.
Aside from arrests, the British Behaviour Abroad report shows the number of Brits hospitalised abroad has increased to 3,752 cases, despite fewer people from the UK travelling abroad last year.
Medical treatment abroad can be very expensive and to avoid being faced with large bills if taken ill or after having an accident, the Foreign Office urges people to take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy before they go away this summer. Previous research suggests 15% of Britons travel abroad without any insurance at all.
Other key findings from the British Behaviour Abroad report include:
• Spain continues to be the country where most Britons require assistance (4,971 cases) but when you take visitor and resident numbers into account, you are most likely to need consular assistance in the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan
• The number of rape cases in Greece almost halved since 2009-10 from 27 to 15, although the numbers of sexual assault cases rose significantly
• The number of Britons hospitalised abroad has grown, with Spain handling the most cases (1,024) followed by Greece. Proportionally Britons are most likely to be hospitalised in Thailand
• In total Foreign Office staff handled 19,228 serious consular cases last year
For details on how the Foreign Office can help if you get into trouble abroad, please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Know_Before_You_Go
The Foreign Office is encouraging people to sign up to Facebook and Twitter feeds to ensure they are informed of the latest travel advice: www.facebook.com/fcotravel or twitter.com/fcotravel.
You can also check APH’s Know Before You Go section for help –http://www.aph.com/news/knowbeforeyougo/