Consular Assistance provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 201130 December 2011
2011 was an exceptionally busy year for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in providing assistance to Irish nationals overseas.
The Department had to respond to crisis situations in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria as well as to the earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan. The fact that a number of these occurred at the same time and included countries where Ireland has no Embassy or diplomatic presence, posed particular challenges in helping Irish citizens and their families who found themselves in difficulty. The Department’s Crisis Centre and help-lines were open to the public for a period of two months in February and March 2011. Hundreds of Irish citizens and their families were advised, assisted and helped to leave these areas of conflict or natural disaster. The Department is continuing to monitor the security situation in a number of countries, particularly Syria and Egypt.
In addition to these events, the Department assisted almost 1,500 Irish citizens following serious consular emergencies overseas, including deaths, arrests, kidnaps, accidents, child abductions and hospitalisations.
While Consular assistance was provided to Irish citizens in virtually every country in the world, by far the highest number of consular emergencies occurred in Spain, followed by Australia, US, Britain, Thailand, France, Portugal, Poland, Turkey, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Greece and the United Arab Emirates.
This year the Department provided consular assistance to the families of almost 200 people who died abroad. Each one of these cases involves a tragedy to a family in Ireland and the Department wishes to extend sincere condolences to the families who suffered these bereavements, often in the most tragic and traumatic circumstances. The Department also dealt with nearly 300 cases of arrest, as well as a number of child abduction cases.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade does everything it can to assist Irish nationals in difficulty abroad. However, the Department’s assistance is not a substitute for the purchase of private and comprehensive medical and travel insurance. All travellers should obtain appropriate insurance to avoid the burden placed on families in the unfortunate event of an accident or incident abroad. Those travelling within the EU, Switzerland, or the European Economic Area, should obtain a free European Health Insurance card from the local health authority, www.ehic.ie.
The Department urges Irish citizens thinking of travelling abroad in the year ahead, either on holiday or to work, to plan in advance and always keep their safety in mind. They should ensure that their passports are up-to-date and take note of the contact details of the relevant Irish Embassy for the country where they are visiting. The Department’s booklet, “Travel Safely – Slán Abhaile”, provides practical tips on how to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit overseas. Irish nationals abroad are also urged to register online with their local Embassy or Consulate. This voluntary registration is invaluable and enables the Department to stay in touch with Irish nationals on a large scale, particularly with those travelling in remote or challenging places. We also encourage those travelling abroad to consult our country specific travel advice. All of these services are available through the ‘Services to the Public’ section of Department’s website www.dfa.ie.
A total of 186 Adoption Dossiers were processed and authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for Irish citizens as part of the foreign adoption process. The countries from which the majority of children are being adopted by Irish citizens include Russia, Bulgaria, Ethiopia and Mexico, with dossiers also being received for use in Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and India, among others countries.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade authenticated 67,000 Irish documents such as educational certificates, legal documents and company documents, which were required for presentation abroad, many of which were required in order to secure employment or for property and commercial transactions.
The Department processed in excess of 8,000 applications for Irish citizenship through Foreign Births Registration (a person born abroad to a parent who, although not born in Ireland, was otherwise an Irish citizen at the time of the person’s birth). The majority of applications are received through the Embassies and Honorary Consulates in the United States, Britain, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, reflecting the large Irish communities living in these areas.
During 2011, the Department issued more than 2,500 Certificat de Coutume (civil letters of freedom) to Irish citizens getting married abroad, with the most popular countries being Italy, Spain, Germany, Malta and Scotland.