The loss of thousands of British passports every year has prompted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to launch a campaign urging expats and travellers to keep their travel documents safe.
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The FCO explained issuing emergency travel documents is one of the main tasks of consulates – and many passports are lost due to carelessness rather than theft.
Common reasons for requesting replacement document’s include spilling drinks on them in bars, putting them through a washing machine, cooking them in a microwave and using the blank pages as a notebook.
In 2014, 20,612 UK passports were reported as lost or stolen and 39,000 emergency travel documents were also issued by consular staff.
FCO spokesman John Heppenstall said: “Expats and tourists should treat their passport the same as other valuables, like money or their wallets.
“Travellers should also realise that many countries expect a passport to have at least six months to run and two blank pages when they enter a foreign country”
The FCO maintains a list of country-by-country requirements for passports and visas.
Heppenstall also pointed out that a damaged passport is not valid.
For safe travel, the FCO suggests:
- Look after your passport at all times
- Keep the travel documents under lock or key unless the country where you are travelling to demands you should have a passport with you at all times
- Male two copies of your passport – leave one at home with someone you can contact while overseas and take the other with you. You could also scan a copy to online storage. If you need a passport to go out while overseas, use the copy
- Check your passport meets the requirements of all the countries you will travel through while on holiday
The FCO also explained that travellers have some common misconceptions about how the FCO can help them while they are overseas.
Consulate emergency help
Heppenstall said the FCO cannot:
- Help anyone enter another country without a valid passport or visas
- Offer legal advice or translation services
- Pay bills or offer money
- Help get someone out of jail or investigate crimes
- Help people jump the queue for hospital treatment
“We do our best to help travellers who are in trouble, but there are things we just can’t do,” he said.
“Consular staff can check to see you are OK if detained by police and contact relatives at home if you have problems. We can also arrange lawyers, doctors and other professionals in an emergency.”
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