The UK Foreign Office has launched a campaign to highlight the painful consequences of being involved in drug offences overseas, The Telegraph has reported.
Presently, more than 850 British nationals are serving terms for such offences in prisons around the world, in distressing conditions and often without being given clear dates for a trial, the Office has warned. The Prisoners Abroad charity said it is currently supporting 80 Britons between the ages of 18 and 30 held on drugs offences, with two-thirds of the detainees still waiting to be heard in court. The other third are serving sentences that range from a year to nearly 39 years.
Some countries and authorities employ a zero-tolerance approach that results in strict penalties for those convicted. For example, in Indonesia this year, a 57-year-old British grandmother was sentenced to death by firing squad for carrying cocaine in a suitcase. Possession, trafficking and manufacture of any illegal drugs are serious offences in Indonesia.
In countries like Thailand, possession of even very small quantities of drugs can lead to imprisonment. Possession in excess of 20 grams of a Class A drug could deem one a trafficker and could potentially lead to a death sentence.
In the United Arab Emirates, sentences for drug trafficking for possession of even the smallest amount of illegal drugs can lead to a minimum four-year jail sentence. The Emirati authorities count the presence of drugs in the blood stream as possession.
More than 30 British nationals are currently in prison in Peru for drugs offences. Drug smugglers face long terms of imprisonment -two young British women charged with cocaine smuggling are currently facing a minimum of six years in prison.
Mark Simmonds, minister for consular affairs, said. ‘In the last year alone consular staff handled over 650 drug-related cases. When it comes to drugs our message is clear – don’t take risks, the consequences are simply not worth it.’
Pauline Crowe, chief executive of Prisoners Abroad, also urged people to consider the unhygienic conditions, overcrowded cells, non-availability of food and clean water and the constant threat of disease before getting involved in drugs. Prisoners ‘may have to live through these conditions for many, many years,’ she said.