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Rise in drug offence Briton arrests

The number of Britons arrested abroad for drug offences rose last year, according to Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) figures.

There were 708 cases of Britons arrested for drug offences overseas in 2013/14 – an increase on the figure of 669 in 2012/13.

Of the cases, 173 were in Spain – a 68% rise on the 2012/13 figure, with the FCO saying this may have been due to an increase in local authority action.

The second-largest number of drug arrests involving Britons last year was in America, with 102 cases.

But this was a 29% fall on the 2012/13 American total.

Overall, the FCO said drug arrests were low last year compared with previous years.

There were 816 cases in 2011/12, 799 in 2010/11 and as many as 994 in 2009/10.

Despite the rise in drug arrests, the number of arrests for all offences involving British nationals abroad fell fractionally from 5,435 in 2012/13 to 5,418 in 2013/14.

The FCO figures for 2013/14 involving Britons abroad also showed:

:: Total consular assistance cases reached 17,517 compared with 19,244 in the previous 12 months;

:: Deaths totalled 4,100 – a large decrease on the 6,193 figure for 2012/13, with the FCO no longer recording deaths in cases in which consulates have had no involvement;

:: The number of Britons needing hospital treatment fell from 3,599 in 2012/13 to 3,157 in 2013/14;

:: There were 106 cases of rape compared with 138 in 2012/13, with last year’s figure being the lowest recorded for 10 years;

:: Sexual assaults totalled 152 compared with 172 in 2012/13;

:: There were 31,134 cases of lost or stolen passports and the need for emergency travel documents – a rise on the figure of 28,783 in 2012/13.

The most cases where Britons needed consular assistance in 2013/14 were in Spain, followed by the USA, Thailand, France and Greece.

Comparing the number of visits made to a country with the number of assistance cases required, the Philippines was the country where British nationals were most likely to need assistance, followed by Thailand, Jamaica, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.

The FCO said as a proportion, British nationals remained significantly more likely to die in the Philippines than in any other country.

It added: “This is due to the large number of elderly British expats who live there, a group which continues to account for most of the hospitalisation or death cases.

“Relatively few tourists die or are hospitalised.”

Although total arrests were down last year, there were rises in cases involving Britons in the Philippines, Egypt and France.

Among cases listed as “other types of assistance” there was a rise in cases involving Britons with mental health needs, up from 383 in 2012/13 to 442 in 2013/14.

The countries with the highest number of cases were Spain, France and the US.

Consular Affairs Minister Mark Simmonds said: “With the summer holidays just around the corner, millions of people across the UK will be looking forward to taking a trip abroad. The vast majority will enjoy a trouble-free holiday, but for those who do encounter difficulties our consular staff are there to offer support.

“This year’s report has highlighted some encouraging downwards trends, and this allows our staff to concentrate more on supporting our most vulnerable customers. However, the FCO continues to help thousands of British nationals who get into trouble overseas every year.”

He went on: “Not all consular cases are preventable, but for many travellers taking a few simple steps of preparation can reduce the risk of getting into trouble.

“Taking out comprehensive travel insurance, researching the country and health risks before you go and behaving responsibly when you arrive can all help to ensure that you remember your holiday for the right reasons.”

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