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Amnesia in Ibiza and broke in Madrid

Friday, September 19, 2008

The following is one of Meg’s blogs on the new site ‘FCO bloggers: Global conversations’ - http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/roller/

 

Being the Minister with responsibility for consular activities, means that I am concerned with all the possible events that can happen to Brits abroad. So, rather unusually for a Minister (or certainly most I know), I found myself in a nightclub in Ibiza at 3am in the morning. To ensure I had the full experience, my plane was delayed by four hours so I got straight off the plane and headed to San Antonio to meet the Chief of Police and the Mayor to see for myself the activities of young British tourists and others.

 

There were certainly plenty of people out and about and plenty of drinking, but generally the atmosphere was good. The island depends on British tourists so tackling any problems is high on the list of the local authorities. We in turn have five consular staff who work long hours over the six-month season to support those for whom things go wrong. I was pleased to open a new consular office for them the next day.

 

After our stroll round the town it was on to the nightclub Amnesia. I was surprised to learn that at the height of the season it can hold 5,000 6,000 young people so it’s not hard to imagine the kind of situations that would arise if there was a major incident. Amnesia is well-organised with the latest in surveillance cameras so they ensure they can spot any possible trouble early.

 

The next morning (which did feel rather too early) I met with the local authorities to talk about their plans for any major incidents and to emphasise the readiness of our staff to participate in planning exercises.

 

Then onto Madrid where the focus was somewhat different. Spain is not only the favourite holiday destination for Brits but also where the largest number of people who live abroad reside. A life in the sun is the dream but too often as time goes by and people get older, the dream can become a nightmare. Whether it’s a changed exchange rate leading to hardship, property problems or failing health, while our consular staff do what they can, being better prepared would save heartache for so many people. In a workshop, staff representatives from charities and Spanish authorities looked at real-life examples and worked out what they could do and how the services could prevent these problems in the future.

 

There’s a lot that can be done, not least informing people before they go and once they’re there remind them to prepare for the less good times. So watch out for the campaign “Don’t be lonely"

Associated Photograph :

Meg in Amnesia with Julian Braithwaite, Head of Consular Affairs, FCO and Denise Holt, British Ambassador.

Meg in Amnesia with Julian Braithwaite, Head of Consular Affairs, FCO and Denise Holt, British Ambassador.


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