03 March 2015 by Anna Staford
Can you recommend a Scottish chef in Brussels who can make haggis? How do I set my antennae to receive English TV channels in Italy? Can you find me cheap flights to New Zealand? These are just some of the recent enquires the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has received from around the world.
Last year the FCO’s Contact Centres received more than 365,000 calls from British nationals. The vast majority of these were genuine calls from people who needed our help, but we still receive thousands of enquiries every year relating to issues we are unable to assist with. These enquiries can take valuable time away from those in genuine need of assistance.
Some of the more unusual calls we received in 2014 include:
Such enquiries stem from a lack of understanding of what FCO consular teams can do for British nationals overseas, so we are launching an awareness campaign to remind UK travellers and residents overseas of the services we provide, and what we can and cannot do.
The FCO’s priority is to protect the welfare of British nationals abroad, and consular staff will always do their best to assist people when they find themselves in difficulty. However, it is important for travellers to understand what services we provide before getting in touch. There are also some simple pre-travel steps that you can take to reduce the risk of getting into difficulty and needing our help, such as taking out comprehensive travel insurance, researching the destination and any health risks and ensuring access to emergency funds.
Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister, David Lidington, said: “It is important for FCO consular staff to be able to focus on our most vulnerable customers, such as victims of crime, those who have lost a loved one abroad or people who have been detained or hospitalised overseas."
Head of the FCO’s Global Contact Centres, Meg Williams, said:
“The role of the FCO Contact Centres is to help enable consular staff to focus on what is important and to concentrate on those in need, but we continue to receive misdirected enquiries from British nationals. We receive hundreds of thousands of calls every year and while the vast majority of these are from British nationals in genuine need of our assistance and services, in 2014 38% were not related to consular support at all."
For more information on how the FCO can help British nationals overseas, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-british-nationals-abroad-a-guide.