The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the British government department responsible for the welfare of British citizens overseas, has issued a warning for travellers to the main cities in Brazil.
The FCO has updated previous advice in the light of escalating protests in the South American country, which in some cases has resulted in violent confrontations between police and protestors. The semi-finals of the Confederation Cup football competition, which is currently being contested at venues around Brazil, are expected to be occasions of particular focus for protestors. The first semi-final is due to take place at 4 pm today in the city of Belo Horizonte, while the second is scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday June 27, in Fortaleza.
The football tournament has been targeted by protestors who are critical of the amount of money that the country is spending on hosting the Confederation Cup, the forthcoming FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic games, while they allege that public services, including transport and education, are being starved of funds. Four people have already been killed in the violent protests, which started as a modest demonstration in the city of Sao Paulo against an increase in bus fares. Now millions of angry Brazilians are taking to the streets, with the authorities warning that two further mass rallies are planned for 4 pm today, one in the city of Recife and the other in the nation’s capital, Brasilia.
The FCO has warned Britons travelling in Brazil, ‘You should avoid all protests and demonstrations. Monitor local media, follow the guidance of local authorities and expect some disruption to travel.’
The Foreign Office has published a new guide which contains full details of how the Foreign Office can provide support to British nationals when things go wrong abroad.
The new publication, called Support for British nationals abroad: A guide contains for the first time a written Customer Charter which sets out the Foreign Office’s commitment to providing a high level of service. The guide also provides:
- clearer and updated information for those affected by a crisis abroad
- clearer information on how the FCO can assist people with mental health problems
- clearer explanations of why the FCO cannot help in certain situations
The Foreign Office has also launched new support and assistance measures for families of people who have died in suspicious circumstances overseas. Nearly 6,000 British nationals die abroad each year and around 60 of those are the victims of a murder or manslaughter.
The Foreign Office is working in partnership with the Victim Support National Homicide Service to ensure that families get the practical support they need to deal with the added trauma, complications and costs when a British national is murdered abroad.
To help families cover the exceptional and additional costs if a murder occurs overseas, the Foreign Office is providing a £100,000 grant to Victim Support to commission services on behalf of bereaved families, if needed. This will enable them to expand the range of services they can provide to bereaved families such as travel costs, translation and interpreting services and repatriation costs.
Minister for Consular Affairs Jeremy Browne said:
“Dealing with the death of a family member who has been murdered abroad can be an extremely traumatic experience. I have met the families of victims and decided that the FCO could improve its service to help people in these terrible circumstances. I am pleased to announce that we are now providing more practical and emotional support for families bereaved by a murder abroad and are working closely with the Victim Support’s National Homicide Service to improve the assistance available.”
The number of Britons arrested overseas has fallen by over 10%, but despite this positive trend Foreign Office staff still handled 5,700 arrest cases last year.
Though down by 20% overall, Drug arrests continue to be a significant problem for some countries, particularly parts of South America and the Caribbean where a high proportion of total arrests are drug related.
Foreign Office Minister David Lidington said:
“We work hard to warn British nationals about the consequences of breaking the law abroad so it is really encouraging to see the overall number of cases of arrests and drug arrests falling. But last year there were still 5700 arrests of British nationals overseas. Prison conditions in some parts of the world can be very poor, overcrowded and, in some cases, dangerous and sentences can be much tougher than in the UK. People are mistaken if they think the Foreign Office can get you out of jail. We can’t, but we will work hard to try and ensure your safety, and that you get a fair trial.”
Foreign Office research reveals that:
- 43% of 18-24 year olds know someone who has taken illegal drugs whilst abroad. It also showed that two thirds of people in Britain don’t always find out about the laws of the country they are visiting before they go abroad – putting themselves at risk of unknowingly breaking the law.
- nearly a third (32%) of people are not aware that they will always be prosecuted under local law if they break the law abroad – with 6% of people thinking they will be prosecuted under UK law, 22% thinking it depends on the country they are in and 4% admitted to not knowing at all.
Aside from arrests, the British Behaviour Abroad report published today shows that the number of Brits hospitalised abroad has increased to 3,752 cases, despite fewer people from the UK travelling abroad last year. Medical treatment abroad can be very expensive and to avoid being faced with large bills if taken ill or after having an accident, the Foreign Office is urging people to take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy before they go away this summer. Previous research suggests that 15% of Britons travel abroad uninsured.
Other key findings:
- Spain continues to be the country where most Britons require assistance (4,971 cases) but when you take visitor and resident numbers into account, you are most likely to need consular assistance in the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan
- The number of rape cases in Greece almost halved since 2009-10 from 27 to 15, although the numbers of sexual assault cases rose significantly
- The number of Brits hospitalised abroad has increased with Spain handling the most cases (1,024) followed by Greece. Proportionally Brits are most likely to be hospitalised in Thailand
- In total Foreign Office staff handled 19,228 serious consular cases last year