Ambassador Giles Paxman spells out what British Consulates do and what British nationals can do for themselves Most of you reading this will never have come into contact with a British Consulate. In many ways, I hope you never do. But there's no guarantee of that. It's inevitable that with more than thirteen million British visitors to Spain annually, and an estimated 800,000 Britons who live here, every year there will be a few thousand who do need help – and that's what we're here for. The nine Consulates and 13 Honorary Consuls across Spain are part of one of the largest global consular networks of any country in the world. Whether you are in the Balearics or the Canaries, basking on the Costas or working in a provincial town or city, there is a representative of the Foreign Office somewhere not too far from you. And before you go anywhere, it's easy to call us to see if we can resolve your enquiry straight away – in four out of five cases, we do. But sometimes it's not so easy. I was very struck by the Foreign Secretary William Hague's speech on consular services earlier this month (April) . In it he said "Consular work is very personal. It touches the lives of British citizens in difficult and sometimes extreme circumstances". Indeed, the working day of consular staff is neither routine nor rosy. They are effectively an emergency service for Brits in distress, from lost passports to serious crime to death. The job of a consular officer is to provide impartial, non-judgmental advice and to treat you fairly and equally, no matter who you are. Their work, and the sight of the Union Flag hanging outside the building, often make a huge difference to anyone who finds themselves in frightening and stressful circumstances. The professionalism of our staff has just been reflected in 'Our Man In…', an excellent TV documentary series on Channel 4 in the UK, watched by more than three million people. The images of staff dealing with a wide range of 'Brits in trouble' – from visiting a convicted murderer in prison to a nasty Taser incident involving Spanish police - led to widespread praise in national newspapers like The Sun, Daily Mail and The Guardian. I am very proud of the work they do. And there are many things that we can do. We will provide help if you are unfortunate enough to be the victim of a serious crime such as sexual assault. If you are injured and in hospital, we will visit you if there is a need. If you are arrested or detained, we will also visit you as soon as possible after arrest, if that is what you want. And if you are in prison, we will visit you to monitor your welfare, to help you understand the local legal and prison system, to put you in touch with support networks and to help you find an English-speaking lawyer. During the year 2010/11, our consulates in Spain handled the largest number of cases of any country in the world – almost 5000. We dealt with over 1700 arrests and more than 1000 hospitalisations, as well as assisting Britons involved in some of the most upsetting and unpleasant crimes - 19 reported cases of rape and 33 of sexual assault. Six of our offices - in Malaga, Alicante, Palma de Mallorca, Tenerife, Ibiza and Las Palmas - were in the top 10 British Consulates worldwide for the total number of assistance cases handled. But there are other things we cannot do. Almost two million people contact the Foreign Office worldwide for some form of consular assistance each year - that is more than 37,000 people a week. With these vast numbers, you can understand that Consulates cannot give you money, make travel arrangements for you, pay your bills, arrange funerals or repatriate bodies. It wouldn't be fair to give public money to those who fail to take out travel insurance when others show the good sense to buy a policy from their own pockets. We cannot override local authorities, such as police investigating crimes. And we cannot give you legal advice because our staff are not lawyers – although of course we can help find you an English-speaking one. Finally, although we cannot use public resources to resolve private property disputes, here in Spain we most certainly continue to lobby the Spanish authorities at every level to urge them to resolve the generic legal problems which are affecting thousands of British property owners. The British Embassy in Madrid is the only one in the world to have a full-time property adviser. Britons bought some 4,000 homes in Spain last year, down from a peak of 17,000 in 2007. We are working hard to get the message out about seeking independent, professional advice before buying in order to avoid a future generation of property problems. Of course, there are things that British nationals should do to help themselves. Residents really must register on the Padrón, and I'm pleased that more and more are – 397,000 at the latest count. Not only is it the law, but it's also the way to access public services and a range of other benefits whilst avoiding extra costs for both the Spanish and UK authorities. Meanwhile, visitors to Spain can avoid huge amounts of heartache and financial pain simply by taking out travel insurance. Every week our staff are faced with heart-rending cases involving medical or other bills running into many thousands of pounds, simply because people didn't spend the price of a meal on a travel policy. 'Have you got travel insurance?' is one of the first questions our staff ask. If the answer is 'No', then they – and you as an expat resident hosting them - could be facing a very big financial problem. When you hear about a fund-raising campaign among friends and family to help someone get back to the UK, it's usually because they didn't have travel insurance. British citizens in Spain are fortunate. The British government is better represented on the ground than any other European or Commonwealth nation. That means that help is nearer, with more expertise about how things work in Spain, when you really need it. But we can't do everything and I hope this article also helps people to recognise that they can do things to help themselves. Extracts from speech by Foreign Secretary William Hague on what the FCO can do for Brits abroad: "If you are a British national and if you get into genuine difficulty abroad, you can turn to the Foreign Office for certain types of assistance. We help people who have lost their passports or need to find a doctor or legal advice, or who are struggling with bereavement in a country they don't know well. Often the circumstances are tragic and upsetting: we help the parent whose child has been abducted by their former partner; the traumatised victim of rape; the devastated family whose son has committed suicide; the distraught boyfriend whose partner has been murdered; or the vulnerable girl or boy who has been forced into marriage against their will. But there are also cases where members of the public waste time and scarce resources with ludicrous requests. It is not our job, for example, to book you restaurants while you are on holiday. This is obvious, you may think. But nonetheless it came as a surprise to the caller in Spain who was having difficulty finding somewhere to have Christmas lunch. If like a man in Florida last year, you find ants in your holiday rental, we are not the people to ask for pest control advice. If you are having difficulty erecting a new chicken coop in your garden in Greece as someone else did, I am afraid that we cannot help you. So we ask British nationals to be responsible, to be self-reliant and to take sensible precautions. We cannot emphasise enough the importance of good travel insurance. If you do find yourselves needing our help, we do ask British nationals to be prepared to pay for certain services; consular assistance is paid for from fees and not from taxation, and where we do charge a fee for a service, we only do so to cover our costs. In return, we maintain one of the most extensive and most effective consular networks of any country in the world."
Hello all, I am looking to buy a property in Spain, can anyone educate me please on living with solar/wind/generator electricity. I see several properties offered with this sett-up but never having used a system like that I would welcome any advice from people living with one. Many thanks.
Does anyone know if there is a bus direct from Alicante airport to Alicante railway station? Is there a web link that shows timetables? I know there is a bus into the centre of Alicante, but I don't know how close this stops to the railway station. I don't need a trek when I have loads of luggage to haul.Or, has anyone ever taken a taxi from the airport to the railway station in Alicante and can they tell me how much it cost? Thanks.
I read that the new Corvera Airport will not open until the summer of next year. Red tape blamed. Another perfect example of why Spain in general is in the mess it is with 25% unemployed. They seem to get new projects built quickly but getting them open is another thing. If the airport is safe to operate then get it open. I expect Paramount may open about 2020.
British Embassy Press Release: Looking after our own: strengthening Britain's consular diplomacy Foreign Secretary William Hague talked about the role of British consular services, and plans for the future in a speech at the Foreign Office today. “I have given many speeches as Foreign Secretary about our approach to foreign policy, our work for international peace and security and our strong emphasis on commercial diplomacy. But today I want to describe what we are doing in a vital area of the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but one which rarely receives so much attention: strengthening Britain’s consular diplomacy. When an Air France jet plunged into the Atlantic and 228 people died; British consular staff and police worked painstakingly to identify the 8 British victims from amongst the wreckage and body parts…………..” Link to full speech
On Thursday April 19th we are holding an Auction of promises at The Novo Carthago restaurant (Paddy Singh’s) in Los Urrutias, and have already received quite a few pledges….but we need more. Can you offer a service which local people can bid for, something they may need, and could get for a bargain price! Some of the pledges we already have are: Ladies to Spring Clean, Airport Runs (both Murcia and Alicante) Garden Maintenance, Painting and Decorating, Portrait sitting, Hairstyling, dance, disco etc. to name a few. Could you offer a game of Golf or snooker, car maintenance, pool cleans, appliance servicing, dining out or anything that people would wish to bid for. Our aim is to raise money for the charity, give our supporters an opportunity to bid for something they would like, and hopefully get at a bargain price, and for you to publicise your business and hopefully gain new customers. If you would like further details, please call 968 134 978, or email email@example.com, and we will send you a form. Come along and support us, free entry, Restaurant and bar snacks available, booking essential.
Hi! I was wondering if anyone could help me. I've looked on soo many websites to find a hotel to stay in and so many people say different things about the same hotel, I was wondering if any of you have any suggestions. My husband and I are looking to stay for 1 to 2 nights anywhere near the sea. Beginning May 2012. Must be a hotel where they accept holiday checks, nice view, walking distance either beach or town center (not fussy). Price under 100€ a night - if this is possible. If you have any suggestions, I would be very grateful. Maisy
British Embassy Press Release: A Message from Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, to celebrate Commonwealth Day 2012. "One of the great benefits of today's technology-based world is the range of opportunities it offers to understand and appreciate how others live: we can see, hear and enter into the experience of people in communities and circumstances far removed from our own……" click here to read full message.
Harrods Sale Day Atmosphere at New Mabs Cancer Support Shop On Friday, 2 March, MABS Cancer Support Group opened the doors of its second retail outlet in San Javier, Murcia. Although the new shop didn’t open until 10.00 am, people were queueing before 9.00 am to make sure that they bagged the items of their choice. “We were amazed” said Manager, Sue Thomason. “We had worked hard to get everything in place to start trading and were still putting the final touches to the store when people arrived.” The new store mainly sells top quality, second-hand furniture and household goods, alongside bric-a-brac, books, CDs and DVDs. After the success of the first two days’ trading, MABS is keen to re-stock and is able to collect large items, as well as offering a delivery service on large purchases. If you have items to donate, give them a call on 615 016 035 or call into the shop, which is next door to the MABS Cancer Centre, Avenida de la Uniόn 60, San Javier. “We’re very lucky to have the support of Fred and Diane Lowe at The Furniture Store on the Polígono Industrial Los Alcázares” remarked Sue. “When they deliver new furniture to customers, they are donating any used furniture that they collect to MABS. It’s a great of way of recycling and we’d love to hear from other businesses who would like to do the same.” MABS Murcia Director, Lyn Baines commented: “I congratulate Sue and her team for a fantastic job getting the new store ready in record time. We signed the contracts on 18 February and were ready for trading on 2 March; I’m very proud of them.” MABS Murcia is a registered charity (No. 7261) offering help and support to local people of all nationalities who have been diagnosed with or are being treated for cancer. If you or someone you know would like some confidential help or support call our HELPLINE 693 275 779 or visit the website: www.mabsmurcia.com
Members and guests of the LUZ de MURCIA LODGE attended a Dinner Dance last Saturday at the Traina Hotel in Lo Pagan. Following a champagne reception, 120 people sat down to a sumptuous 7 course meal with wine in the beautifully prepared dining room. This years’ hosts, Worshipful Master Paul Eburne and his wife thanked everyone for coming along to make the evening so special. Mr Eburne added “The atmosphere was absolutely fantastic and it was like the Paris fashion week with all the beautiful evening wear”.Showaddywaddy Legend were the entertainment for the evening, and they had the whole room dancing or singing along until the early hours, when most guests eventually retired to bed, just a few hours before they came down for a fantastic full breakfast, most still smiling and singing along. A superb raffle with a lot of the prizes being donated by local businesses raised €1.250 for HAH Help at Home and El Samaritano
Talking Books. The service for supplying talking books to the public has been dormant for the last year but it will be starting up again now that the library and administration have been updated. At present we have a list of 128 books and 6 cassette players. Initially the service will be available for patients in hospital and, if it proves popular, we shall extend the service to the wider public. Headphones plus cassette players are needed to play help us provide this service. Please dig out any headphones that you may have and are not using, like the ones that are issued on commercial flights or guided tours. Don’t just leave them stored in cupboards, Donate them to HELP MMM and we can make good use of them. We hope to be able to have a delivery service for people, who can’t get out of the house or are sight-impaired and would like to listen to a book on tape. Car Boot Stall We also need bric-a-brac to sell at our car boot stall at the Autocine (LOOP). HELP Murcia Mar Menor holds a car boot at the Autocine, Los Alcazares every Sunday morning, when we sell clothes, furniture and bric a brac. If anyone has any donations for the stall please contact Janice or Bernard on 650737383 or bring them along on a Sunday morning. Our stall is on the left hand side near the exit. We are always looking for volunteers to help us on the stall or to help us store everything away after the event at around 1 o’clock. This can be on an occasional or regular basis. Money raised at the stall enables HELP MMM to carry on with their good work loaning out wheelchairs and other disability aids, and offering help in many other ways in the local community. We also hope to expand our service to the Mazarrón area and launch an initiative called “LISTENING EAR” but more about these in the future.
Hola Could someone please talk me thru the process of applying for one of the above cards. We get different information everytime we ask someone. If you could do it in a 1,2,3 sort of format that I can print off and follow. We can only just find our way to Cartaghena so make it simple!! thanking you in advance of your informative and wonderful instructions. Julie x
The sun shone last Thursday, when HAH volunteers went to an 'Afternoon Tea' party hosted by Claire and Dave from Bar Apicoco in Playa Honda. More than 50 people came along to enjoy chef Katie's freshly made cakes, and a fantastic flower arranging demonstration by HAH's own volunteer, Pam Hankinson. Elaine Woodward, another volunteer also showed her skill, and brought along some beautiful tiles that she had decorated by hand. There was a fantastic display of jewellery to buy, and a demonstration of the new Wingz (as seen on Dragons Den). Claire and friends had already started a raffle, and the flower arrangements were added to the prizes. The afternoon raised an amazing 180€. Celia Ryan (HAH) thanked Claire, Dave and friends, for their support and hard work, the friends who donated raffle prizes, and the loyal customers who turned up in support.