Consulate cases on the rise as Aussies get in trouble overseas
The number of Aussies heading overseas has almost doubled over the last nine years, with 4.3 million people leaving the country in 2006, compared to 8.2 million in 2015.
The exedous has led to a significant increase in the work of Australian Consulates, who helped out nearly 16,000 Aussies in trouble abroad last year.
Thailand topped the list for the country with the highest number of consulate interventions, with 667 recorded cases. This was closely followed by the United States (649 cases), Italy (609 cases), Indonesia (547 cases) and Spain (484 cases).
Comparethemarket.com.au, a travel insurance comparison website, collated information from a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) report on the most common difficulties that people find themselves in overseas that require consular help.
Comparethemarket.com.au spokesperson Abigail Koch, said “Most holidays are hassle-free and Australians should in no way be deterred from travelling for fear of getting in trouble. A little local know-how, a few smart decisions and some basic research can go a long way to making you safer when on holiday. While extra vigilance is never a bad thing, it’s a travel insurance policy that can enable Australians to avoid getting into financial trouble when overseas.”
The most common troubles that Aussies found themselves in abroad leaving them in need of consular assistance:
1. Missing persons (5,697 recorded consulate cases): also known as ‘whereabouts enquiries’, they refer to when family or friends at home have not heard from a traveller and are concerned they are missing.
Something as simple as updating your social media accounts can go a long way to keeping people back at home reassured that you are well. If you don’t have internet access then invest in an international phone card or stop by an internet cafe. If you are worried about someone abroad and you have made all reasonable attempts to contact them, then get in touch with the police in Australia who will decide whether to refer the case to DFAT.
2. Hospitalisation (1,453 recorded consulate cases): it’s bad enough if you arrive at your dream destination and find yourself sick or injured, but it can be financially devastating if you don’t have travel insurance.
Consulates can provide details of local doctors and hospitals, and help deal with any welfare concerns connected to your medical treatment. However, they do not pay the medical expenses of uninsured Australians. If you take out a travel insurance policy, you can relax knowing if something were to go wrong then you have financial security and a support net. Your travel insurer can be a fantastic point of contact for health and advice if you fall ill or are injured.
3. Arrests (1,256 recorded consulate cases) & imprisonments (371 recorded consulate cases): the most common cause of Aussies imprisoned overseas was drug offences (153 cases in 2014/15), which is especially concerning given that many popular destinations (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam) can still apply the death penalty.
If you are arrested while abroad then local authorities should advise you of your right to contact your Consulate for assistance. Bear in mind that the Consulate cannot give you any legal advice or get involved in your case directly. There can be significant legal costs associated with an arrest and trial, and in very limited circumstances, Commonwealth legal financial assistance may be available but this only applies if you are at risk of being punished by imprisonment for 20 years or more, or face the death penalty.
4. Theft (1,066 recorded consulate cases) & lost passports (8,171 recorded consulate cases): if your passport is lost or stolen, you should report it online or in person at an Australian embassy, high commission or consulate. If it has been stolen you will also need to report this to police and get a report.
There are considerable fees for applying for a new passport in person when overseas. An emergency passport costs $153, plus an overseas surcharge of $102 for adults or $51 for children. Many travel insurance policies cover the cost of replacing a lost or stolen passport, as well as range of other commonly stolen items, including luggage and cash.
5. You cannot get home (61 recorded consulate cases): otherwise known as ‘repatriation’, this is when you lose all of your money and have no way of getting back home.
Travel insurance policies generally include provisions for repatriation on medical grounds, although the upper limits will vary.
Policies might also cover events such as theft or loss of money and travel documents which would otherwise leave you stranded. Consulates can consider requests for repatriation of Australian citizens who are unable to meet the cost of their return due to unavoidable misfortune.
However, travellers must show evidence of attempts to organise funds through family or friends, and agree that the repatriation costs are a loan which must be paid back.
28 February 2016.