By Shane McGinley
UK citizens also arrested for drug offences; rape cases were also on the rise - report
While the number of British citizens who required consular assistance while overseas during the 12 months to the end of March 2013 declined 3 percent overall, the UAE reported a rise of 25 percent, with drug arrests up 18 percent and hospitalisations up a dramatic 93 percent.
Official figures released as part of the British Behaviour Abroad Report 2013 by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) showed consular staff around the world gave assistance to 19,244 citizens between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013, an annual decrease of 3 percent.
By comparison, the UAE gave assistance to 436 British citizens during the same period, a rise of 25.2 percent year-on-year. Of the top twenty countries on the list that required assistance, this ranked the UAE second behind Germany in terms of the biggest annual increase.
An analysis of the figures showed that while the number of Brits arrested for drug offences fell 19.97 percent globally, its lowest level in four years, in the UAE it rose 18 percent to 13 incidents.
The FCO figures were released just as it was announced British men who were given four year jail sentences in Dubai for drug offences have been released as part of a pardon, just three months after being convicted.
The three – Grant Cameron, Suneet Jeerh and Karl Williams – were jailed in April this year after being found guilty of possession of synthetic cannabis. The case had risen to global prominence after the three men had claimed they were tortured during a seven month detention period before their trial – claims vigorously denied by authorities in Dubai.
Similarly, the total number of Brits arrested abroad dropped 9.6 percent, while British consular staff in the UAE reported a 21 percent rise in arrest cases.
“I am proud that our staff continue to offer vital support to thousands of British travellers and residents around the world. Each case can represent great distress for the individuals concerned and for their families,” said Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister Mark Simmonds.
The most dramatic rise in the UAE was in the number of British tourists and residents hospitalised during the research period, up 93 percent to 54 incidents. This is compared to a global drop of 3 percent.
These cases involved older expats or tourists with pre-existing medical conditions getting into difficulty and requiring treatment after arriving in the country.
“I encourage all British travellers to do everything they can to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip by taking some basic steps to prepare themselves before departure, including taking out comprehensive travel insurance and researching their destination,” Simmonds said.
The report also highlighted the rise in the number of British citizens who were the victims of sexual assaults while abroad. In the UAE, while sexual assaults overall dropped 44 percent to five incidents, the number of arrests rose to four cases, up from zero incidents reported during the previous period.
“I am deeply concerned to see an increase in the number of reported rape and sexual assault cases involving British people. The priority for our consular staff is the safety and wellbeing of British travellers and we will continue to work, including with other Governments and tour operators, to help to prevent further cases and provide all possible support for victims,” Simmonds said.
On the plus side, the number of Brits who died while in the UAE during the twelve month period dropped 14 percent, compared to the global rate of just 0.7 percent.