British consuls left bemused by odd requests

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has said that consular officials are constantly left bemused by the strange requests for assistance that they receive from British travellers overseas.

The Daily Mail has reported that while British Embassies are there to perform an important service for those travellers that are in serious difficulty with such problems as lost travel documents or having been the victim of a crime, it is the expectation of a section of the travelling community that consular services and advice are almost boundless.

Among the more bizarre requests that have been received from travellers overseas in the past year were assistance in silencing a noisy cockerel and help in translating a phrase to be used on a tattoo. A visitor to Israel asked for help in forcing her husband on a fitness regime, as she wanted to start a family, while a visitor to Kuala Lumpur wanted to know if funds could be provided to send a child to an international school, and a man in Stockholm wanted to use the local consul’s services to check the background of a woman that he had met online.

In the last year, the FCO handled one million enquiries and assisted 52,135 British nationals that were in genuine difficulty abroad. However, of 131,211 calls received by a call centre that was set up in Spain to handle non-consular inquiries that British embassies received in Southern Europe, 39 percent were enquiries related to lifestyle.

Mark Simmonds, consular affairs minister, said in the Daily Mail, ‘FCO staff help many thousands of British nationals facing serious difficulties around the world every year. We also receive over a million inquiries each year, so it is important that people understand what we can and cannot do to support them when they are abroad. We are not in a position to help people make travel arrangements or social plans, but we do help those who face real problems abroad. These can include victims of crime, bereaved families who have lost a loved one abroad or Britons who have been arrested or detained. We aim to continue to focus on supporting those who really need our help in the coming year.’