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Ministry helps New Zealanders offshore

Ministry helps New Zealanders offshore

New Zealand’s Embassies offshore received nearly 40,000 consular queries during the year to 30 June 2013.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade consular divisional manager Lyndal Walker says while most queries can be quickly dealt with, the Ministry opened 1851 new consular cases in the past year.

“Cases can range from Kiwis suffering a serious accident or injury offshore, to local law infringements, lost passports, missing persons or being the victim of a crime. For example, in the past year assistance was provided to the families of 147 New Zealanders who died overseas.”

When New Zealanders fail to get travel insurance – or under-insure – cases become more complex, Ms Walker says.

“A young man broke his leg in a skiing accident in Europe. He had insurance but he hadn’t signalled to his insurance company he would be undertaking what the insurer deemed to be a ‘high risk’ activity. The company denied him cover and he had to cough up several thousand euros to pay his medical bill.

“You need to ask sensible questions about your travel insurance and what it covers. For example, riding on scooters (especially without a helmet) is often excluded unless you specifically request it.”

While Embassies and High Commissions can provide advice and support, they can’t bail out New Zealanders in financial strife, Ms Walker says.

“This applies equally to New Zealanders detained overseas. While we can provide a list of local lawyers, attend hearings and visit people in jail, we cannot interfere in the judicial process of another country, nor can we provide legal advice or seek that person’s release.”

Ms Walker says it’s vitally important for New Zealanders travelling offshore to register with the Ministry, at www.safetravel.govt.nz. “For example, at the moment we have 200 Kiwis registered with us in Egypt. The Embassy remains in regular email contact with them and is able to provide updates on issues of concern around the on-going civil unrest, including if our Travel Advisory changes.”

“But even if you’re going to a less troubled destination, you still need to register. When we tried to contact New Zealanders thought to be running in the Boston marathon at time of the bombing, we discovered that none had registered with us and some relatives had an anxious wait for news.

“In a crisis, it’s often those registered with us who are contacted first to confirm they are ok and if they require our assistance.”

Ms Walker says there were some offbeat requests in amongst the 39,077 consular queries during the past year.

“Some New Zealanders holidaying in a remote village in France rang our Embassy to ask where they could watch All Blacks games on television.

“Another New Zealander offshore rang a High Commission to ask if they could arrange for his rental property in New Zealand to be checked by the Police, to make sure tenants were keeping it in good order.

Of New Zealand’s posts around the world, the Embassy in Bangkok spent the most time managing consular cases, followed by Rome and then Manila, with Jakarta and New Delhi rounding out the top five.

SafeTravel.govt.nz features official travel advice for New Zealanders on most destinations worldwide.

“Log on to SafeTravel before you take off,” Ms Walker says.

“Check out the latest travel advice, register, and then double check your travel insurance. It is important to take responsibility for your travel choices, your safety and behaviour overseas.”


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