Firstly, the Government has never been legally obliged to provide consular assistance. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has always provided the highest level of service its resources have allowed. For many reasons, those resources have been reduced or rationalised, rendering the FCO unable to assist in all but dire circumstances.
ConsularAssist is available as an ancillary provision with some travel insurance policies, but if your provider is not partnered with Consularcare then the answer to this is a resounding ‘no’. Inherently, travel insurance only reimburses you for any financial losses if an insured event occurs.
No one is disputing that the internet is an excellent source of information and we have seen a number of positive examples of social media being used to benefit victims of recent terrorist attacks, but information found on the internet is not always accurate, not always up-to-date and not always reliable. Our former diplomats have access to a network of experts ‘on the ground’ and are always in receipt of the most current facts.
We are staffed by former diplomats who have experience of working abroad and access to a network of experts located across the globe. We source real time information because we need to be up-to-date and accurately informed to provide the best service to our clients.
The world is changing and travelling abroad is becoming more dangerous. Recent events have shown us that we are potentially at risk wherever we go, even if we are just going on holiday. We can’t prevent atrocities from happening, neither can we stop you losing your passport or being arrested, but we can be there to help you pick up the pieces and we can make sure you never feel alone in a crisis.
There is no disputing that some travel reps are very experienced and extremely knowledgeable, particularly of local matters, but their ability to assist in the event of an incident will be limited.
The Embassy staff will assist you as much as their resources will allow, but those resources are diminishing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. By 2014-15 the number of consular staff across the world had more than halved, and since 2010, 18 posts with consular functions had closed or been suspended, but only four new posts opened. According to FCO figures for 2015-16, their global consular network handled over 600,000 enquiries from British Nationals overseas but only responded to 18,179 new consular cases (excluding Emergency Travel Documents, lost/stolen/recovered passports and advice). Even if you disregard the enquiries that would never warrant personal assistance, that still leaves an alarmingly high number of people feeling isolated and frightened as they face a crisis alone.