UK warns expats of drug offence dangers
22 November 2013
ROME - After the number of British citizens arrested for drug-related offences in Italy increased by 29 percent over the last year, the British Embassy in Rome has cautioned expatriates not to take risks with the law when abroad.
Hundreds of British citizens are arrested in foreign countries each year for drug crimes, and many remain locked up in prisons facing "distressing living conditions," a press release from the British Embassy in Rome states.
Though the total number of arrests abroad for British citizens decreased by 10 percent from 2012 to 2013, the number of arrests in Italy for drug offences has grown 29 percent, according to a July report by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
While certain drug offences may only carry "cautions" in the UK, those travelling and living abroad can face distressing situations and "long prison sentences" when convicted in other countries, warns the British Embassy.
"In Italy offenders may, in exceptional circumstances, be held on remand for over a year before their trial," the embassy states. In other places, however, the consequences can be much worse. There are 33 countries and territories which offer the death penalty for drug-related crimes, 13 of which make that punishment mandatory.
Will Middleton, the Consular Director for Southern Europe, has stated the consequences of being sent to an overseas prison are vast. “We see people of all ages – from youngsters through to pensioners – who have lost their friends, their job, had to give up their studies, or had their children taken into care,” Mr Middleton warns, concluding that “the consequences are simply not worth it.”
The UK FCO is now launching a campaign in partnership with Prisoners Abroad, a charity working to support 84 young British citizens held abroad for drug-related offences, to highlight the consequences one can face when possessing, smuggling, or using drugs in a foreign country.
The UK FCO actively works to prevent problems for those travelling abroad and remains available to provide support to those in need.