The Foreign and Commonwealth office publishes a list of odd requests it has received to remind British travellers of its role
If you have ever thought of ringing the British Consulate to enquire abut transcendental matters such us Phil Collin's telephone number or Prince Charles' shoe size, they advise you not to do so.
In fact, they want to remind you that they are not directory enquiries. For this reason the Foreign and Commonwealth office has released its list of odd requests, to remind British travellers of the role of its global network of Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates.
Believe it or not, the enquiries received by Foreign Office staff include these already mentioned, as well as eccentricities such as asking consular staff to meet a dog on arrival and help the dog through the customs process.
It seems like these people have the consulate's number on speed-dial and just ring them every time they have the slightest question about life. In this sense, you have a man calling the Consulate in Florida to report that there are ants in his holiday villa and asking for advice on what he should do. Or the one who called staff in Greece asking for tips on the best fishing spots and where to purchase good bait.
"We will always try to help where we can but there are limits to the support that we can provide. It is important that people understand the level of help we can offer. Our priority is to help people in real difficulty abroad and we cannot do this if our time is diverted by people trying to use us as a concierge service," said Minister for Consular Affairs Jeremy Browne
"We need to be able to focus primarily on helping victims of serious crimes, supporting people who have been detained or assisting people who have lost a loved one abroad," he added.
Whether these calls are made by pranksters, time-wasters or seriously disturbed people, does not really matter, but the case is that there are too many of them. There is such a volume of non-consular enquiries received by British Embassies and Consulates in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Andorra, that the Foreign Office had to set up the Iberia Contact Centre in Malaga earlier this year to cope with them.
Now that centre filters calls so that consular staff can focus their resources on situations where they can provide assistance. I wonder where that centre diverts the calls with weird enquires. An NHS psychology helpline, perhaps?
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