Letter: Foreign Office can help more

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Letter: Foreign Office can help more

Sir: I can only agree with many of the sentiments expressed in your article regarding the inadequacy of Foreign Office assistance for the relatives of UK citizens who die abroad ("Foreign Office forced to rethink policy on Britons in distress", 23 October).

It is not good enough for an FO spokesman to say that people assume that it is able to do more than it can. There is more that it can and should do to help individuals who, often quite innocently, find themselves trying to cope with incomprehensible judicial and investigative procedures abroad. Help need not be purely financial.

When our daughter, Joanna, was murdered in France in May 1990, the assistance we received from the FO in the three days it took to collect her belongings was very welcome, but thereafter we were left to flounder on alone against an unsympathetic and uncommunicative system which seemed bureaucratic, slow and unaccountable.

We neither sought nor received financial help to repatriate Jo's body, but would have valued advice about the legal and investigative system; where to look for and hire a specialist lawyer; how to obtain financial aid through EC legislation; and numerous translation and communication problems.

Nor was it just ourselves who lacked help. The British police found communication with their French counterparts impossible; the coroner was forced to postpone the inquest three times because of the lack of forensic information from France.

All these problems would have been eased by help which the FO should be in a position to give.


Newnham-on-Severn, Gloucestershire