Ireland’s overseas embassy staff handled a record number of queries in 2009 according to recent figures, with the Irish Embassy in Canberra and the Irish Consulate in Sydney receiving the third most emergency calls of any country.
New figures revealed assistance was provided to Irish citizens in virtually every country in the world, leading Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin to urge travellers planning trips abroad in the New Year to exercise caution.
“Our network of Embassies and Consulates has never been busier in responding to consular emergencies,” said Mr Martin.
“In 2009, my Department has dealt with more than 1,350 serious consular emergencies, including deaths, arrests, kidnaps, accidents and hospitalisations. The corresponding figure for 2008 was significantly less, standing at 1,200.
“We provided consular assistance to the families of 243 people who died abroad, which represents an increase of almost 20% on the 205 deaths abroad we dealt with in 2008.
“I want to extend my personal condolences to the families who suffered these bereavements, often in tragic circumstances.”
The highest number of emergencies occurred in Spain, followed by the US, Australia, Thailand, Britain, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey and Greece.
Mr Martin said people should take personal responsibility for their wellbeing while away and familiarise themselves with their intended destination on www.dfa.ie before they travel.
“Our statistics clearly show that increasing numbers of Irish citizens are finding themselves in distressing situations while abroad, and travelling to ever more exotic and unusual destinations,” he added.
“I strongly recommend to all those who plan to travel overseas in 2010 to ensure that they obtain comprehensive travel insurance.”