More British travellers are getting into trouble overseas, according to Foreign & Commonwealth Office figures.
There was a 6% rise in arrests worldwide last year, when 6,015 people were handled by British embassies.
Spain topped the list for detentions, with nearly 2,000 – up 9% on 2010 – ahead of the US and Thailand. Drug arrests also increased by 2% with the FCO handling 816 cases over the same period.
While Spain and the US show the highest number of drug-related cases, drugs continue to be a “significant problem” in countries including Jamaica, Serbia, Peru and Brazil where more than 70% of total arrests were drug related, the FCO said.
Consular staff across the globe spend 35% of their time handling cases of British nationals detained or imprisoned abroad and many report that Brits often have unrealistic expectations of what the FCO can do for them.
Around half of total arrest cases involved people under the age of 34.
Anecdotal evidence from embassies and consulates overseas suggests many incidents are alcohol-fuelled, particularly in popular destinations such as the Canary Islands, mainland Spain, Balearics, Malta and Cyprus.
The FCO is encouraging young holidaymakers about to set off on summer holidays in particular to consider the consequences of running into trouble with the law when overseas.
Consular affairs minister Jeremy Browne said: “It is important that people understand that taking risks abroad can land them on the wrong side of the law.
“The punishments can be very severe, with tougher prison conditions than in the UK. Whilst we will work hard to try and ensure the safety of British nationals abroad, we cannot interfere in another country’s legal system.
“We find that many people are shocked to discover that the FCO cannot get them out of jail.
“We always provide consular support to British nationals in difficulty overseas. However, having a British passport does not make you immune to foreign laws and will not get you special treatment in prison.”
There has been almost a 30% increase in arrests on Ibiza and Majorca, with more than 500 people in total detained.
David Thomas, Madrid-based consular regional director for Spain, said: “The police on Majorca and Ibiza have a zero tolerance attitude towards alcohol-fuelled offences and we see many young people being arrested for causing trouble outside bars and clubs at night.
“All too often they think they’ll spend the night in a cell sleeping off their hangover before being let out in the morning. They soon sober up when they realise their British passport does not grant them immunity and they’re alone in a foreign prison cell, unsure of when they’ll be released and unable to speak to officers because they don’t speak the language.
“It’s particularly sad to see younger people throwing away years of their lives, often as a result of a risky decision made in the heat of the moment and after a few too many drinks. Not only can you end up with a criminal record but the effects on your family can be devastating.”
The statistics have been released in advance of a full British Behaviour Abroad report next month.
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