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04 March 2015 09:31
Foreign Office minister David Lidington
British consular staff do a great deal to help thousands of UK nationals when they are in need overseas, but they may draw the line at offering veterinary advice.
Foreign Office staff in France recently received a call and were asked how to treat a cat for an infected paw.
That is just one of a list of strange requests out of the 365,000-plus calls which personnel around the world deal with every year, and they get even more bizarre.
They have been asked to tell a Scottish chef how to prepare haggis for a Burns Night event in Brussels, and to help someone get English channels on a TV in Italy.
Minister for Europe David Lidington says Foreign Office staff can help people if they lose their passport, are a victim of crime or are hospitalised or imprisoned while abroad.
But there are many things that they are not able to do, including giving advice on how to treat an injured pet for instance.
If you are heading overseas it is a good idea to make sure you are covered by travel insurance, in case you need medical treatment or the holiday is cancelled or curtailed.
Foreign Office staff in the USA were recently asked for advice on putting together British-style hanging baskets of flowers for a trade fair, because a gardener that had been hired had suffered 'stage fright'.
A British woman in Albania asked staff how she could discover whether the woman her son was due to marry was already hitched, while personnel in Mexico City were asked how a man could find out whether he had left his smartphone on an aircraft.
Mr Lidington says consular staff will help if they possibly can but they have to concentrate on those who are truly in need, those who have been targeted by criminals while abroad, those whose family members have died and those who have been admitted to hospital in a foreign country.
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