How the FCO can help British nationals abroad

‘No Madam, the British Consulate cannot help you find a chef to make you haggis.’

Sounds like a joke doesn’t it? But this is actually one example of the weird and wonderful calls that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) received in 2014.

Last year, the FCO received more than 365,000 calls from British nationals needing help and advice. Most of these calls were genuine, however, there were thousands of calls relating to issues that the FCO simply cannot help with. These calls take valuable time away from those in genuine need of help.

Here are just some of the unusual requests that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office received last year, but could not help with:

  • “How do I set my antennae to receive English TV channels in Italy?”
  • “Can you find me cheap flights to New Zealand?”
  • “Can you find out if my son’s Albanian fiancée is already married?”
  • “Can the FCO staff go to Mexico City airport to check if I’ve left my mobile phone there?”

To try to prevent time-wasting calls, the Commonwealth Office has just launched their ‘Make the Right Call’ campaign to remind the public of what support they can and cannot expect when abroad.

Here’s what the FCO CAN help you with:

  • Issue you with an emergency travel document
  • Provide information about transferring money
  • Provide help if you have suffered rape or serious sexual or physical assault, are a victim of crime, are ill or in hospital
  • Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors
  • Contact you if you are detained abroad
  • Contact friends and family back home for you if you wish
  • Provide help in cases of forced marriage
  • Assist people affected by parental child abduction

The FCO cannot:

  • Help you enter a country if you do not have a valid passport or necessary visas
  • Give you legal advice or translate documents
  • Investigate crimes or get you out of prison
  • Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people, but we will raise concerns if treatment falls below internationally recognised standards
  • Pay any bills or give you money
  • Make travel arrangements for you