British nationals are continuing to pose inappropriate questions to FCO consular staff around the world, which has prompted the government department to issue a reminder of its role. Anecdotes recounted include travellers seeking advice on how to control unruly children, big spenders asking to be bailed out in paying their credit card bills, and a lady asking whether the embassy could help after she had a breast enlargement operation that she wasn't happy with.
Juliet Maric, the British Consul in Alicante complains that British travellers regard FCO posts as a "one- stop-shop for any problem they might encounter while abroad." She added that this is frustrating as they have serious cases to be dealing with in the meantime. The Minister for Consular Affairs, Chris Bryant, added his voice to the issue, saying that "embassies are not there to provide weather reports" and highlighted the importance of British travellers understanding "what the FCO can and can't do for them so?staff can focus resources on more serious situations where people really do need our help."
Here is a quick reminder of what the FCO can help with while abroad:
-Issue you with a replacement passport if yours is lost or stolen
-Help you transfer money
-Offer support if you have suffered rape or serious assault, are a victim of other crime, or are ill or in hospital
-Provide a list of English-speaking local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors
-If you are imprisoned: look after your welfare and visit you in prison if that is what you want; inform your family (if you desire); give you information about the local legal system, including whether a legal aid scheme is available, as well as information about prosecution, remand, bail and appeal procedures; and put you in touch with a local lawyer and/or interpreter if you need one. If you get into trouble the FCO will contact friends and family back home for you if you want.
-Help people with mental illness
-Offer support and help in a range of cases such as child abductions, forced marriage, death of relatives overseas, missing people and kidnapping
-Make special arrangements for Britons caught in acts of terrorism, civil unrest or natural disasters
Here is a list of things that the FCO cannot help you with:
-Get you out of prison or interfere with another country's legal system
-Help you enter a country if you don't have a valid passport or visa
-Give you legal advice or investigate crimes ? although they can give you details of English-speaking lawyers
-Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people
-Pay your bills or give you money
-Make business arrangements on your behalf
-Find you a job or help you find accommodation
-Make travel arrangements for you
-Get involved in your private disputes over property, employment, commercial or other matters
-Ensure you will be safe in another country; safety and security are under the responsibility of the government concerned
For all advice on travelling and living abroad, check out the FCO's website.