Drug arrests of Britons rise, cases of rape drop

Although the new figures show a fall in some serious types of consular cases globally, the UAE has seen a small rise in cases compared to the 436 recorded in the same period in 2012-2013.


Kelly Clarke

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Published: Wed 23 Jul 2014, 12:15 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 8:38 PM

With 100,000 British nationals living in the UAE and more than 620,000 visiting between April 2013 and March 2014, a new report shows the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) successfully assisted 499 of its overseas citizens here during the one-year period.

Travel advice

UAE laws and customs are very different to those in the UK. Be aware of your actions to ensure that they don’t offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. There may be serious penalties for doing something that might not be illegal in the UK. You are strongly advised to familiarise yourself with, and respect local laws and customs.

Although the new figures show a fall in some serious types of consular cases globally, the UAE has seen a small rise in cases compared to the 436 recorded in the same period in 2012-2013.

According to the FCO’s British Behaviour Abroad report, cases relating to drug arrests, general arrests and sexual assault have increased slightly in the UAE compared to the previous year’s figures, however cases of rape have dropped from four to one.

In recent years, chic hotels, skyscrapers and golden beaches have turned Dubai and Abu Dhabi into popular tourist destinations. With visitor and residents numbers rapidly on the rise, this could be attributed to the rise in nationals needing consular assistance.

While the total arrests of British nationals saw a fall globally compared to 2012/13, it seems drug arrests remain a problem in several countries, with Australia and Spain seeing a combined increase in recorded cases of more than 80 per cent. So although cases in the UAE jumped from 13 to 16 during a one-year period, this is comparatively low compared to its counterparts.

Fact box

> 16 Britishnationals arrested for drug-related crimes in UAE in 2013/14

> 54 Britishnationals hospitalised in UAE in 2013/14

> FCO consularstaff handle 17,517 cases in one year.

While the UAE is considered one of the most liberal countries in the Gulf, the Muslim country’s drugs and sexual offence laws are severe. This may also contribute to the small rise in assistance cases recorded, as visiting nationals may be unaware of the country’s written law.

Take the highly publicised case involving three British men, Suneet Jeerh, 26; Grant Cameron, 26; and Karl Williams, 27. The trio was arrested in Dubai in July 2012 after synthetic cannabis was found in their possession.

An offence that would usually invite a police caution or monetary fine in the UK, under the UAE law the men were sentenced to four years in prison. However, under the Ramadan amnesty they were released early.

There was also the case relating to Rebecca Blake, 31, who was charged with indecency and having consensual sex in the back of a taxi in Dubai. She was convicted on both counts and sentenced to three months in prison. Evidence that an act that may only invite a police caution in the UK, could end in severe punishment in the UAE.

Minister for Consular Affairs Mark Simmonds said consular staff is there to offer support for those who do encounter difficulties abroad, but he urged all to take precautions to ensure a trouble-free holiday or expatriate lifestyle.

“Not all consular cases are preventable, but taking a few simple steps of preparation can reduce the risk of getting into trouble. Taking out comprehensive travel insurance, researching the country and health risks before you go and behaving responsibly when you arrive can all help to ensure that you remember your holiday for the right reasons.”

Ranking fourth in the FCO report as the most likely destination where UK citizens need overseas support, the UAE sits behind the Philippines, Thailand and Jamaica.

With millions of British nationals still travelling abroad every year, it is becoming more common for these nationals to travel to far-off destinations such as the Philippines, China and the United Arab Emirates. This trend correlates with the report’s findings and again could contribute towards the increase in assistance needed in the UAE over the past few years.

FCO consular staff handled 17,517 cases in 2013/14 compared to 19,244 the year before. However, this decrease has been driven by a change in proceedings as it no longer records death notifications.

The FCO promotes the United Kingdom’s interests overseas, supporting citizens and businesses around the globe. This year’s report highlighted some encouraging downwards trends, and Simmonds said the FCO will continue to help thousands of British nationals who get into trouble overseas. — kelly@khaleejtimes.com

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