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Helping New Zealanders offshore

Helping New Zealanders offshore

New Zealand’s Embassies and High Commissions offshore received more than 50,000 queries during the year to 30 June 2014, up 33 percent on the previous year.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade consular divisional manager Lyndal Walker says the five busiest posts for consular work are Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Rome and Dubai.

Ms Walker says that while many of these queries are simple and dealt with immediately, in the last year the Ministry managed just under 2000 new cases.”

“The most common reasons that people seek our help involve lost property (including lost passports), being the victim of crime, local immigration difficulties and medical problems. Law infringement cases are on the rise, and we are increasingly being asked for advice and support when a New Zealander dies overseas.

“Also growing is the number of Kiwis being caught up in internet romance scams, which has led us to post a specific warning on www.safetravel.govt.nz.

“Offshore-based scammers go to great lengths to gain the trust of their victim. Once a bond has been established they will typically ask for money or for a task to be undertaken. Often the task is illegal, even if this is not immediately obvious.

“For example, an elderly New Zealander was arrested and detained in prison for some months after entering a European country with a parcel containing cocaine. The scammer had been grooming the victim online for almost a year. They had arranged to meet in Europe, with the scammer asking the victim to collect a package en route.”

Ms Walker says there were some offbeat requests in amongst the 52,085 consular queries received during the past year.

“Our post in Dubai was asked ‘can you pick up my suitcase from prison and deliver it to Egypt?’.

“We’ve also been asked for advice on how to repatriate the ashes of a pet dog to New Zealand.”

Ms Walker says many consular cases could be avoided or made less complex if travellers obeyed the local laws of the country they visited.

“It’s also really important to both take out travel insurance and ensure it covers all activities you’ll be undertaking. Things like skiing, riding on scooters or adventure activities can often be excluded unless you specifically ask for them to be covered. Pre-existing medical conditions should be declared when arranging cover.”

Ms Walker encourages all New Zealanders travelling offshore to register with the Ministry, at www.safetravel.govt.nz. “In an offshore crisis affecting New Zealanders, it’s often those registered with us who are contacted first to confirm they are ok and if they require our assistance.

“For example, at the moment we have 57 Kiwis registered with us in Ebola-affected countries in West Africa, who are receiving regular updates from us on the evolving situation.

“Log-on before you take-off.”


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