FCO issues warning for UK travellers to Turkey

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the government authority that is responsible for providing assistance for British tourists overseas, has issued a travel warning for UK citizens intending to visit Turkey.

The warning comes in the wake of a wave of anti-government demonstrations that have been taking place over the weekend with escalating violence both from the protestors and the law enforcement officers. With in-excess of 1,700 people arrested during protests that have spread to 67 Turkish towns and cities, the FCO has advised all British nationals that visit the country to avoid any areas where demonstrations are taking place for their own safety.

The major cities of Istanbul and Ankara have witnessed the bulk of the violence, which first broke out on Friday. The police have responded to missiles thrown from the crowds and the burning of cars with tear gas and water cannons. As a result of the violence, the Turkish Doctor’s Association said that its members have treated in excess of 484 wounded protestors.

An update of the FCO’s travel advice that was issued on Saturday said, ‘Following recent demonstrations in Istanbul and other cities in Turkey, in which police used tear gas and water cannons, the possibility of further demonstrations remains high. We advise British nationals to avoid all demonstrations.’

The protest grew out of an initial peaceful gathering in Gezi Park, Istanbul, as a demonstration against the park being developed to create a shopping centre. However, as the protest gained momentum it was joined by large crowds, angry at the government’s increasingly authoritarian stance, perceived as Islamist, and which has also seen recent restrictions on the sale of alcohol.


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.’

Foreign Office Announces Summer Travel Guidelines

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), a UK government agency controlling interests of the UK overseas, has announced its checklist for UK travellers going abroad on vacations.

Passports and Visa

The authorities have urged travellers to check the validity of their passports and visas, before travelling to foreign countries. A certain amount of validity needs to remain in the passport for travellers to be able to make the journeys.

Travellers to the US will be required to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA).

Travel Insurance

Travellers have also been warned against proceeding on travel without required travel and medical insurances, as falling sick abroad can turn out to be very expensive.

Earlier, in a survey by Hiscox, a UK-based insurance provider, around 19% of the respondents reported not taking out any travel policy for holidays, or think that they are covered under another policy, such as health etc; or don’t know if they are covered or not.

For travellers to Europe, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will prove to be handy.

Driving Abroad

Authorities have urged UK travellers to comply with the motor vehicles rules of the other countries where they are going, and keep abreast of the local regulations and documents required to carry in person for driving abroad.

Travellers to France are being made aware that it’s compulsory to carry a warning triangle and a reflective jacket while driving in France, and it is mandatory to carry single use breathalysers in all motorised vehicles as of July 1, 2012.

Foreign Office Requests British Travellers Stay On Right Side of Law During Overseas Trips

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), a UK government agency controlling interests of the UK overseas, has reported a 6% increase in number of British nationals stepping outside of local laws overseas, compared to last year’s figures.

The FCO has reported that between April 2011 and March 2012, it has handled 6,015 arrest cases involving British nationals, compared to 5,700 cases handled in the earlier year. There has been also an increase in drug arrests by 2%, year over year, with around 816 cases being reported to FCO handling during the same period.

The UK’s Minister of State for Consular Affairs, Jeremy Browne, said, ‘It is important that people understand that taking risks abroad can land them on the wrong side of the law. The punishments can be very severe, with tougher prison conditions than in the UK. Whilst we will work hard to try and ensure the safety of British nationals abroad, we cannot interfere in another country’s legal system.

We find that many people are shocked to discover that the FCO cannot get them out of jail. We always provide Consular support to British nationals in difficulty overseas. However, having a British passport does not make you immune to foreign laws and will not get you special treatment in prison.’

FCO has reported that the highest number of drug-related cases have been found in Spain and the US, with around 70% of the cases being reported from countries such as Jamaica, Serbia, Peru and Brazil.

David Thomas, the consular regional director covering Spain, said, ‘The police on Mallorca and Ibiza have a zero tolerance attitude towards alcohol-fuelled offences and we see many young people being arrested for causing trouble outside bars and clubs at night.

All too often they think they’ll spend the night in a cell sleeping off their hangover before being let out in the morning. They soon sober up when they realise their British passport does not grant them immunity and they’re alone in a foreign prison cell, unsure of when they’ll be released and unable to speak to officers because they don’t speak the language.’

Tokyo travel advice downgraded

The warning of only travelling to Tokyo for essential travel has been downgraded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

After weeks of uncertainty following the earthquake and devastating tsunami that left the Fukushima nuclear plant worryingly close to a nuclear disaster, Japan is now welcoming tourists back.

Last year 8.6million tourists came to Japan, and considering the huge price tag for the series of disasters is thought to be at £122billion, the decision to downgrade is certainly a welcome one. Especially as Spring is a very popular time for tourists wanting to see the beautiful cherry blossom season.

Since the earthquake on March 11th, which subsequently damaged the nuclear reactors and radition appeared to by leaking, the FCO had warned against travel to Tokyo.

Although Tokyo is 130 miles south of Fukushima, it was feared radiation would reach the city.

Due to the destruction to the infrastructure to the north-east of the capital, the FCO is still advising against travel to this area, but Tokyo is now considered safe as long as no further disasters occur at the Fukushima plant.

A statement on the FCO website says: ‘Although the situation at Fukushima will remain of concern for some time, the risks are gradually declining as the reactors cool and as facilities to stabilise them are established.’

However, Britons have been advised to follow ‘precautionary measures’ if radiation levels do increase.