Sunday, February 23, 2014

United Kingdom: FCO Wants to Hear From British Citizens Who Have Had Good, Bad Experiences

According to The Telegraph, Britons who’ve ended up in sticky situations abroad--from losing their passports to being taken hostage--have been invited to share their experiences with a government watchdog.
The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee has encouraged travelers and expats alike to participate in a web forum on the UK Parliamentary website which  opened on January 28 and ran until February 11, 2014.
The object is to ensure that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is providing responsive and cost-effective services to Britons in distress.
A spokesman for the committee explained: "You might have received British consular help under a number of different circumstances; for example, the loss of a passport or the need for medical treatment and evacuation. Or you may have had to cope with the death of a relative, arrest or imprisonment, hostage-taking, child abduction or even a general evacuation of UK nationals in a national crisis."
He said the committee would like to know whether it was easy to get in touch with UK consular services, and how staff responded. It also wants to know whether expectations were met – and how things could be improved.
COMMENT: In 2012, the FCO dealt with over one million general consular enquiries and over 100,000 consular cases, including over 20,000 cases requiring consular assistance.
During the Libya crisis in 2011, the FCO was accused of being too slow to assist Britons who needed to be evacuated from the country. That prompted the office to overhaul its crisis response mechanisms, according to a spokesman. 
In April 2013, the FCO launched a three-year strategy with the aim of providing "the best consular service in the world" by 2016.
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Sir Richard Ottaway MP, said: "We want to hear from as many people as possible who have had to seek help from a British embassy, consulate or high commission when traveling. Whether you had a good or bad experience, we’d like you to tell us about it."
In addition to written submissions, the committee will hear evidence from experts working for organizations such as Reprieve, which helps people facing the death sentence in foreign jails and prisons.
In the interest of transparency, one can only hope that the results of the FCO inquiry will be released in full detail on the Foreign Office's website for at least 120 days: