Nobody wants to fly off on holiday thinking about the bad things which could possibly happen when away from home. The UK government has a network of embassies and consulates around the world, and part of the embassy staff’s job is to help British citizens who get themselves into trouble when abroad. But what exactly can you expect them to do in a crisis?
Information and Documents
One of the main roles which an Embassy or Consulate performs is to provide British citizens with information and help with lost or stolen documents. They will help with getting you emergency travel documents to get you home if your passport is lost or stolen, and will keep lists of local doctors, lawyers and others professionals who speak English. They can also act as a type of registry office and should be your first port of call if someone dies overseas or a baby is born. The consular or embassy staff can’t act on your behalf though – they will provide information about lawyers or funeral directors but cannot make arrangements or deal with local police for you. They can also pass messages on to family back in the UK, and give advice on the best methods for transferring money.
Brushes with the Law
Many British tourists fall foul of the law overseas each year and call on the UK Embassy for help. Embassy staff cannot and will not get involved in cases with local police – they won’t investigate crimes, stop you from being deported or argue your case with immigration authorities who have refused you entry. They are also unable to get you out of prison, but may be able to raise concerns about treatment which is below acceptable standards. Embassy staff can put you in touch with a lawyer but won’t be able to intervene on your behalf.
Medical and Insurance Issues
Every year there are stories in the press about UK tourists who have travelled abroad without adequate insurance, have ended up in hospital and are appealing for funds to get them home. A common situation is visitors who have misunderstood the scope of the EHIC system, thinking it pay the costs of repatriation, when in fact only some medical treatment may be covered. Embassy and consulate staff cannot help out in these sorts of situations apart from recommending doctors and hospitals. Staff will also not be able to help with making travel arrangements.
Crisis Situations Overseas
It is very unlikely that you will be caught up in a natural disaster, military coup or terror attack while on holiday, but the Embassy will swing into action if there are any unexpected events which affect British citizens. They can help arranging charter flights or evacuations, and in these circumstances may agree to get you back to the UK and claim payment later. Staff set up emergency hotlines to ensure that British travellers are kept informed about what is happening, especially in a quickly-changing emergency or natural disaster situation. It’s always a good idea to know where the nearest British Embassy or Consulate is, especially if travelling off the beaten track.