The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) exists to help
British citizens overseas to resolve serious welfare issues. Examples of the
types of requests that the FCO can help with include helping to source
replacement travel documents such as passports, to support victims of crime or
assist those that have been hospitalized overseas.
In essence, the FCO exists to help support the welfare of
British citizens overseas, and are often able to resolve potentially serious
situations. In other words they’re a lifeline for British expats around the
world, responding day and night to important situations where others can’t (or
won’t) help. To some people that have used the services of the FCO in the past,
they’re like an international ”big brother” – ready and able to help
in times of need.
But the same doesn’t necessarily go for everyone. For some
people, it seems, the purpose of the FCO is severely misunderstood. A recent
report reveals some of the requests made to the busy Foreign and Commonwealth
Office over the last year, and reveals some very odd requests indeed. In many
cases these are very far from the true purpose of the FCO.
Examples of the less-than-urgent requests received by the
FCO over the last year include:
• How to access English-language TV channels while living in Italy
• The best places to buy hanging baskets for the garden
• Where one can buy haggis in Belgium
• Help in locating mislaid luggage
• How to treat a poorly pet cat
The FCO are quick to point out that while these issues no
doubt seemed of importance to their callers, this is not specifically what the
FCO was designed for. Indeed, fully 38% of enquiries received by the office
last year related to non-consular enquiries. Instead, the FCO should be
considered an emergency port-of-call for serious – or potentially serious –
problems. These ”less urgent” enquiries are eating up time and money
that could otherwise we spent on answering the more important calls.
After all, consider how you would feel if you realized you
had lost your passport in a foreign country – or even worse had had it stolen –
and were unable to access the help available to you because of a haggis-related
incident. While it’s all-too-easy to see the funny side of such requests, it is
important to remember the true purpose of the FCO.
According to statistics, an understanding of the role and
purpose that the FCO was set up is at an all-time low. In light of this a new
awareness campaign is to be launched to help highlight exactly how the Foreign
Office can assist Brits overseas – and what is rather more outside their remit.
If you’re a UK resident heading abroad we would strongly encourage you to
investigate the role of the FCO before leaving, and to keep the local office
number to hand, so that you can receive the necessary assistance should a
situation arise abroad.