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Overseas Health Insurance News: FCO reveals the year's strangest consular requests

Many expatriates feel secure knowing that the local consulate is there to help if they need emergency assistance while they are living abroad.

The difference between what comes within its jurisdiction and what should be dealt with in another way is not one that is clear to everyone.

Revelations by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) show some of the more bizarre requests consular staff have been faced with over the past 12 months.

For example, one man in Rome got in touch with the consulate to ask for a phrase to be translated as he wanted to get a tattoo.

Others include a British citizen in Montreal asking for confirmation of the colour of his nation's passport as he had a £1,000 bet riding on it.

Also fairly common is tourists getting in touch requesting information on the best places locally to watch the football.

Mark Simmonds, minister for consular affairs, said: "FCO staff help many thousands of British nationals facing serious difficulties around the world every year.

"We also receive over a million enquiries each year, so it is important that people understand what we can and cannot do to support them when they are abroad."

Areas where people mistakenly believe they will receive help include paying medical and legal bills, but travel and specialist expatriate insurance is required to cover such costs as the FCO will not pay out for such expenses.

Meanwhile anyone who has been a victim of crime, finds themselves bereaved abroad or is arrested can call on the services of the local consulate.

The help that they will be given is specifically limited to providing information, replacing documents and getting in contact with family members.

Mr Simmonds added: "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.

"We aim to continue to focus on supporting those who really need our help in the coming year."

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