Foreign Office Reveals Strange Requests

Published on 1 January 1970 by Raffick Marday

During the last 12 months the British Foreign Office looked after more than a million consular inquiries and supported a total of 52,135 British nationals who found themselves in difficulty in a foreign country.

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Most of the requests for assistance are made by Britons in southern Europe, probably because this is such a popular destination for many tourists from the UK.

The Foreign Office set up a special contact centre in Malaga in February last year to handle the high volume of inquiries, but since the launch 39% of the 131,211 requests have been ‘lifestyle’ enquiries – some more bizarre than others.

Steve Jones of the Foreign Office said: "Our aim is to help staff at posts concentrate on what is important but some of the inquiries we received from British nationals last year were bizarre to say the least.

"For example, one customer contacted us to ask if we could provide the name of the watch that the Royal Navy sailors wore between the years 1942-1955," he continued.

One of the most unusual inquiries included a request for help translating a tattoo, while others included a couple who asked the consul in Kuala Lumpur for money to pay for their child to attend an international school. In addition, a woman in Beijing asked for support because a pair of football boots she had bought were badly made.

Mark Simmonds, the consular affairs minister, said: "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. These can include victims of crime, bereaved families who have lost a loved one abroad or Britons who have been arrested or detained.”

The strange nature of some people’s dealing with consular staff have been revealed by the Foreign Office as part of its ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign which is aimed at educating British travellers about the kind of support they can expect when abroad.

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