Thousands of party-loving British tourists end their holidays in jail

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The Independent Online

Thousands of Britons end up in police cells or in hospital when they take holidays abroad, the Foreign Office reveals today.

More than 1,500 were arrested last year in Spain, while nearly 1,400 were picked up by police in the United States. Almost 1,000 Britons required hospital treatment in Greece and more than 40 reported being raped in Greece and Spain.

In addition to the usual tally of lost passports - more than 6,000 went missing in Spain alone - UK officials were called out to thousands of Britons who get into serious trouble overseas. Almost half of holidaymakers reported drinking "much more" alcohol abroad than when they are at home. Some of the worst problems are in popular party destinations such as Ibiza, Ayia Napa in Cyprus and Faliraki on the Greek island of Rhodes, where large numbers of young revellers are picked up by police, get into brawls or need treatment for alcohol poisoning.

The authorities in Rhodes disclosed yesterday that a British man had been convicted of biting a police officer and tearing his shirt during a brawl outside a bar. The 21-year-old tourist was sentenced to 14 months in jail, but was released from custody after filing an appeal.

The third highest number of arrests was in Greece, even though it was only the sixth most popular destination for Britons. The Foreign Office said a high proportion of arrests overseas were for alcohol-related offences and warned that travel insurance often did not cover injuries and accidents caused by drink.

The Foreign Office also disclosed that the trouble was spreading to eastern Europe, which has recently soared in popularity for weekend breaks, a trend boosted by the combination of discount flights and availability of cheap alcohol.

The British embassy in the Czech Republic is also receiving a "disproportionate" number of requests for help with lost passports (445), hospital admissions (52) and arrests (36). "This is likely to be due to the massive influx of hen and stag parties to Prague," it said.

Nearly three quarters of pre-wedding parties now take place abroad, with the Estonian capital, Tallinn, and Berlin joining Prague as favourite destinations.

The Foreign Office figures, which cover 2005-06, also show that growing numbers of Britons are reporting problems in more distant destinations such as Thailand and Australia, suggesting many holiday-makers are "not prepared enough for more adventurous travelling". Nearly 1,000 visitors to India requested help, probably the result of British Asians failing to be vaccinated or to take out travel insurance when they visit relatives. High numbers of rapes were reported in Greece (48), Spain (41) and Turkey (38). The Foreign Office warned women: "Don't drink so much that you are not in control of what you are doing - and never leave your drink unattended."

Spain remains Britain's most popular holiday destination with 13.8 million visitors last year, followed by France (11 million), the United States (4.1 million) and Italy (3.4 million).

Meg Munn, a Foreign Office minister, said tackling British nationals in distress abroad was one of the department's most important tasks. She said: "Although some of the incidents people face are unavoidable, many can be prevented with a little planning."

* Up to £1.2bn will be spent over the next 10 years on researching the identities of people travelling to the UK, the Home Office announced yesterday, under government's plans for a border force and stricter security measures at ports of entry.

Trips that end in trouble

Most arrests:

Spain 1,549

USA 1,368

Cyprus 330

France 226

Germany 210

Most lost passports:

Spain 6,078

USA 3,064

Germany 1,236

Italy 991

France 713

Hospital admissions:

Greece 955

Spain 601

Thailand 233

France 210

Turkey 170

Reported rapes:

Greece 48 Spain 41

Turkey 38

Cyprus 10

France 6

Thailand 5

Deaths;

Spain 1,325

France 376

Germany 284

Thailand 224

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