AT a time when people are looking forward to their summer holidays, it is worth remembering how important the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is.
When British citizens get into difficulty abroad, the embassy, consulate, or high commission is often the first place to offer on-the-spot support and guidance.
Britons make more than 55 million individual trips overseas every year, and at least six million of our nationals live abroad for some of or all of the time. In the front of each and every British passport is a message which reads: “Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State Requests and Requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary”.
We have consular representation in over 180 countries. Consular staff help tens of thousands of British nationals cope with problems such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters and revolutions.
Last year our consulates issued 345,000 passports; provided nearly 18,000 Emergency Travel documents; helped some 20,000 Britons who had been arrested, hospitalised, whose relative had died overseas or who had been a victim of crime; provided face-to-face assistance to nearly half a million people; gave written support to another 350,000; answered nearly 1 million phone enquiries; assisted in 356 cases of child abduction; led the rescue overseas of 205 victims of forced marriage; successfully protected six British nationals from the death penalty and helped Britons after flooding in Thailand and Australia and instability across the Middle East.
If you are going abroad, it is unlikely that you will need this type of help but it is still a good idea to keep a note of the relevant embassy/consulate details. These can be found by going to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/find-an-embassy/.