UK Foreign Office’s Top 10 Weirdest Consular Calls — Bacon, Butlers and Spanish Nudists

Posted: 1:48 am ET
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We are a huge fan of the UKFCO’s annual report on consular requests from British citizens overseas.   We kept waiting for the State Department to release it own report.  (See UKFCO: Straight Talk on Consular Work, and Consuls Don’t Do Chicken Coops, All right? and British Foreign Service Tackles Bizarre Requests: Monkey, Tattoo, Online Love and More).

On April 7, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office released the top ten weirdest consular calls it received this past year.  Not quite as memorable as the listicle that the former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs once cited when he gave a speech on the role of the British consular service:

I have to say that we are not the people to turn to:

  • if you can’t find your false teeth, 
  • if your sat nav is broken and you need directions, 
  • if you are unhappy with your plastic surgery
  • if your jam won’t set, if you are looking for a dog-minder while you are on holiday, 
  • if your livestock need checking on, 
  • if you would like advice about the weather, 
  • or if you want someone to throw a coin into the Trevi fountain for you because you forgot while you were on holiday and you want your marriage to succeed.
  • And our commitment to good relations with our neighbours does not, I am afraid, extend to translating ‘I love you’ into Hungarian, as we were asked to do by one love-struck British tourist. There are easier ways to find a translation.

The list below seems pretty tame:

UK Foreign Office’s Top 10 Weirdest Consular Calls — Bacon, Butlers and Spanish Nudists via fco.gov.uk.

Confused callers looked to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for advice on bizarre issues ranging from where to buy English bacon in Europe, how to recruit a butler in Lebanon and how to avoid nudists in southern Spain, it has been revealed.

The FCO has released details of the ten weirdest consular calls it has received in the past year, as a reminder to the public that they should only look to use its services for genuine emergencies.

The calls included:

  • a man planning to move to Spain who was worried he would encounter nudists walking through the streets
  • a homesick expat asking where he could buy English bacon
  • a lady in Lebanon looking for help to recruit an English butler
  • a holidaymaker trying to find Travel Advice for a visit to Coventry
  • a European filmmaker looking for an English pensioner to play a part in his new film
  • a woman who was disappointed the British Embassy has not sent someone to give her a tour of St. Petersburg on her arrival in Russia
  • a British man asking for assistance to get illegal employment in Singapore
  • a mother asked for the contact details of a young British YouTuber, as her son was a fan of his Minecraft videos
  • a confused businessman looking for information on the construction of plug sockets
  • a man in South Korea asking what he could do with his old pound notes

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister James Duddridge said:

Our consular staff are a helpful bunch and do an amazing job helping out Brits in trouble around the world – but it is important that people remember they are there to help with genuine emergencies and not as an alternative to directory enquiries.

Every minute they spend handling a call requesting advice on butlers or nudists is time taken away from dealing with life and death cases, so I urge the public to think before picking up the phone.

Latest FCO figures show that over the last year almost half a million calls were made to its consular service –which provides emergency help to Britons in trouble overseas.

The vast majority were from people with genuine requests and the FCO assisted with numerous cases, helping 3,250 Brits who were hospitalised, 4,770 who were arrested, and the families of 3,670 who died overseas. Almost 38,000 replacement travel documents were issued.

FCO staff are able to support Brits abroad in many ways – including arranging to visit Brits in hospital or in prison, advising on how to transfer money and helping those caught up in crisis situations. However, recent research* revealed that almost three quarters of Brits (74%) thought the FCO could get them out of jail if they were arrested, almost a quarter (22%) thought the FCO could arrange for them to get home if they lost their ticket and 15% presumed the FCO would lend them money if theirs was lost or stolen.

 

Related post:

How many spring breakers drink too much and fall off hotel balconies? #SpringBreakingBadly (April 1, 2016)

 

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Bamako Hotel With EU Training Mission Targeted, US Embassy Mali Cancels Consular Services For 3/22

Posted: 2:24  pm EDT
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On March 21, around 18:33 local time, the headquarters of EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM-Mali) was attacked by small arms fire. EUTM reported on FB and Twitter that no one was harmed or wounded at its Mali headquarters (MHQ). Personnel has reportedly secured the mission and the Malian security forces were on patrol at the surrounding area.

After the attack, the U.S. Embassy in Bamako sent a security message to U.S. citizens advising that they continue to shelter in place until further notice. It also notified them and the public of the cancellation of all routine consular services as the embassy will be on reduced staffing on Tuesday, March 22.

Due to ongoing uncertainty surrounding the security incident at Hotel Nord Sud in ACI 2000, the U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens in Bamako to continue to shelter in place until further notice. Out of an abundance of caution, the U.S. Embassy will operate with reduced staffing tomorrow (March 22) and all routine visa and American Citizens Services are cancelled. For emergencies involving a U.S. citizen, please contact the U.S. Embassy at (+223) 223 6675-9579 and (+223) 6675-2860.

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USCG Dhahran Consular Team Wins 2015 President’s Award for Customer Service

Posted: 3:51 am EDT
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Via state.gov:

A State Department consular team has won the prestigious 2015 President’s Award for Customer Service. The team was honored at an awards ceremony at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on December 15.

Administered through the Federal Customer Service Awards Program, the President’s Award for Customer Service is designed to recognize, promote, and reward service excellence, professionalism, and outstanding achievement by federal employees, including teams working on initiatives with a direct impact on customers. The Award also seeks to help agencies identify practices that can be reproduced across the government.

This year, the Department of State was cited for the work performed by Foreign Service and Locally Employed Staff members of the consular section in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, who overcame security and technical hurdles to offer on-site consular customer service to the hundreds of U.S. citizens building the world’s largest petrochemical facility in Jubail. By setting up regularly scheduled visits to academic, corporate, and residential sites, the Dhahran team reduced U.S. citizens’ risks faced during road travel in Saudi Arabia.

Further information about the 2015 President’s Award for Customer Service can be found here.

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consdhahran

Our consular section is sporting their college gear in support of Back to School Week. August 2015 (Photo from U.S. Consulate General Dhahran/FB)

USCG Dhahran is headed by Consul General Mike Hankey who arrived at post on July 8, 2014. According to the Key Officers List, the consular section chief is Kelly Landry.  The Dow-Aramco petrochemical complex in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, is said to be the world’s largest. Once complete it will reportedly be home to 30 production plants and provide approximately 4,000 jobs.

The Travel Warning for Saudi Arabia dated September 21, 2015 notes that there have been attacks on U.S. citizens and other Western expatriates within the past year and there continue to be reports of threats against U.S. citizens and other Westerners, as well as sites frequented by them.  On January 30, 2015, two U.S. citizens were fired upon and injured in Hofuf in Al Hasa Governorate (Eastern Province). On October 14, 2014, two U.S. citizens were shot at a gas station in Riyadh. One was killed and the other wounded.

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US Embassy Saudi Arabia Cancels All Consular Services for March 18 (Day 4)

Posted: 1:41  am EDT
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Related posts:

 

US Embassy Saudi Arabia Extends Cancellation of Consular Services Until March 17

Posted: 7:32 pm PDT
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On March 14, we posted this: U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Saudi Arabia Cancel All Consular Services For March 15/16 Due to Security Concerns

Today, the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia announced the continued cancellation of consular services until Tuesday, March 17.


Due to heightened security concerns at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Saudi Arabia, consular services will continue to be cancelled at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and Consulates General in Jeddah and Dhahran on Tuesday, March 17.  A new security message will be sent out as soon as consular services return to normal.  Telephone lines to the Consular sections will not be open during this time.  In an emergency, please use the  emergency contact numbers provided below.

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U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Saudi Arabia Cancel All Consular Services For March 15/16 Due to Security Concerns

Posted: 4:28 pm PDT
Updated: 4:34 pm PDT with posts phone numbers
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The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia announced today the cancellation of all consular services in Riyadh, and the consulates in Dhahran and Jeddah due to security concerns. Below is part of the announcement:

Due to heightened security concerns at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates have cancelled all consular services in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran for Sunday, March 15 and Monday, March 16, 2015. Telephone lines to the Consular sections will not be open during these two days. In an emergency, please use the emergency contact numbers provided below.

All U.S. citizens are encouraged to be aware of their surroundings, and take extra precautions when travelling throughout the country. The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia and limit non-essential travel within the country.
[…]
Always carry a cell phone and make sure you have emergency numbers pre-programmed into your phone such as the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh (011-488-3800), U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah (012-667-0080), and U.S. Consulate General in Dhahran (013-330-3200). The emergency number for the Saudi Police, Fire, and Rescue is 999. Please keep in mind that most emergency dispatchers and personnel do not speak English.

CIA Map

Original Map Source – CIA

 

On March 7, Embassy Riyadh notified U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia that it had been made aware of information stating that” individuals associated with a terrorist organization are targeting employees of Chevron in Saudi Arabia for a possible attack. There is no further information on the timing, target, location, or method of any planned attacks.”

Yesterday, another security message released said that “individuals associated with a terrorist organization could be targeting Western oil workers, possibly to include those U.S. citizens working for oil companies in the Eastern Province, for an attack(s) and/or kidnapping(s). There is no further information on the timing, target, location, or method of any planned attacks.”

In February, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Saudi Arabia urging U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia.  The warning noted the recent attacks on U.S. citizens and other Western expatriates, an attack on Shi’ite Muslims outside a community center in the Eastern Province on November 3, 2014, and continuing reports of threats against U.S. citizens and other Westerners in the Kingdom.

All three Saudi Arabian posts are 15% danger pay posts as of March 8, 2015.

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Security Messages

 

US Embassy Yemen Suspends All Consular Services Until Further Notice

Posted: 21:02 PST

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On Sunday, February 8, the US Embassy in Sanaa issued an emergency message notifying U.S. citizens in Yemen of the suspension of all consular services in the country until further notice. It also advised those requiring assistance to contact a neighboring U.S. embassy at this time.  There’s Somalia across the Gulf of Aden, but we only have a Virtual Presence Post there. The U.S. missions in the area (see pdf map) are in Djibouti, Eritrea, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Below is an excerpt from the Emergency Message:

Due to ongoing security concerns in Yemen, U.S. Embassy Sanaa has suspended all consular services until further notice. For now, we ask U.S. citizens in need of emergency assistance to contact a U.S. embassy or consulate in a neighboring country. U.S. Embassy Sanaa is continuously analyzing the security conditions in Yemen; please check this website for updates.

The U.S. State Department warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest. The Department urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Yemen. U.S. citizens still in Yemen should make plans to depart immediately. U.S. citizens seeking to depart Yemen are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. Travelers should reconfirm flight schedules with their airline prior to arrival at the airport, since flight cancellations occur frequently. There are no plans for charter flights or other U.S. government-coordinated evacuations.

U.S. citizens in Yemen remain vulnerable to kidnappings and terrorist attacks, especially when in transit to and from residences or workplaces. U.S. citizens should exercise caution and take prudent security measures in all areas, especially those areas frequented by Westerners.

Unlike Madam Secretary where every episode is resolved neatly at the end of the hour, this is real life. We know this is an exceptionally difficult time for those with loved ones working in Yemen.  The embassy there had been evacuated in FY2013 and again in FY2014. Our thoughts are with the remaining crew at post and the Marines protecting them.

If you know somebody who has a loved one in Sanaa, do look in on them, make sure they are holding up okay while their loved ones are working at our frontline post.