Given the number of Australians who venture overseas, it’s little surprise that some get into a spot of trouble. In such instances, the Australian Government, through its embassies, is often asked to intervene or assist on behalf of its citizens.
In 2017, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) assisted more than 12,000 Australians abroad. These were the genuine cases in need.
However, there seems to be confusion among some of our countrymen and women regarding what exactly constitutes consular assistance, with officials reporting some very odd requests.
From those wanting help to break the law, financial assistance to get home and help to retrieve lost personal items, Australian embassies seem to be regularly inundated with some inane demands.
Five of the more entertaining requests received were:
- pay for me and my new dog to get back to Australia? I spent all my money getting the dog
- give me money to get back to Australia? I sold my passport to get funds, but it wasn’t enough. Also, I need a new passport
- I’ve bought a frangipani tree in Fiji and want to take it back home. Can the High Commission use its diplomatic influence to get it past customs?
- I had a few last night at the pub near my hotel and got in a fight. I left my sunnies and phone behind and need the embassy to send someone to pick them up
- I’m coming to France for a holiday. I need the embassy to book my hotel and give me a list of the best places to check out while I’m there.
So what type of assistance can DFAT really provide? A few of the ways the Australian Government can help its citizens are by:
- issuing replacement passports and travel documents
- providing advice and support for those in certain overseas emergencies
- visiting someone who has been arrested.
Before you jet overseas, find yourself in a spot of bother and ask the Government to do the impossible, make sure you take a look at DFAT’s SmartTraveller website.
Have you ever had cause to seek help from an embassy? Were the staff helpful?