Despite being exclusively funded by British taxpayers, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office is today reminding British travellers not to contact them while overseas unless it is an emergency.
While reminding travellers its network of embassies, high commissions and consulates will contact friends and family back home for you if you wish, the FCO said it would not be helping Brits with weather forecasts and ticket bookings.
The announcement follows a recent for Phil Collins’ telephone number to staff in Spain, while a man also asked staff to contact his dominatrix after she had left him stranded at the airport.
Jeremy Browne, minister for consular affairs, said: “We will always try to help where we can but there are limits to the support that we can provide.
“It is important that people understand the level of help we can offer.
“Our priority is to help people in real difficulty abroad and we cannot do this if our time is diverted by people trying to use us as a concierge service.
“We need to be able to focus primarily on helping victims of serious crimes, supporting people who have been detained or assisting people who have lost a loved one abroad.”
It appears the FCO has been driven to distraction by a series of increasingly bizarre requests.
One of the more unusual saw a lady complain to the Embassy in Moscow about a loud buzzing noise in her apartment. She wanted someone to visit her flat and advise the authorities to stop the noise.
In a barely credible case, a man called the Consulate in Florida to report that there were ants in his holiday villa and asked for advice on what he should do.
In Malaga, a caller asked where she could get a Christmas lunch, as everywhere she had phoned was already booked up.
In response, the FCO set up the Iberia Contact Centre in Malaga to cope with the volume of non-consular enquiries received by British Embassies and Consulates in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Andorra.
The centre filters calls so that Consular staff can focus their resources on situations where they can provide assistance.
Maria Leng, consular official in Tenerife, said: “A lot of our time was being taken up with queries that we could not assist with but now the Malaga call centre is making a big difference by filtering enquiries.
“We can issue emergency travel documents or visit you in hospital but we can’t pick you up from the airport or make private arrangements.”
How the FCO can help you when abroad:
- Issue you with replacement travel documents.
- Provide information about transferring money.
- Provide help if you have suffered rape or serious sexual or physical assault, are a victim of crime, are ill or in hospital.
- Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors.
- Contact you if you are detained abroad.
- Contact friends and family back home for you if you wish.
- Provide help in cases of forced marriage.
- Assist people affected by parental child abduction.