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Brits in Spain suffer rise in sexual assaults

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Brits in Spain suffer rise in sexual assaults
Tourists on the popular Spanish holiday island of Majorca. File photo: pasukaru76/Flickr
13:37 CEST+02:00
The number of British expats and tourists needing consular assistance in Spain fell sharply last year but there was a worrying increase in the number of rapes and sexual assaults.

Consular staff in Spain assisted a total of 4,658 British citizens in need last year, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) annual British Behaviour Abroad Report 2013 reveals.

That was down nearly 15 percent on the 5,405 Brits who found themselves in difficulties last year.

Spain, the country most popular with British tourists and expatriates, saw significant falls in arrests, detentions and hospitalization cases, the FCO said in yearly report .

Consular staff dealt with 101 arrests for drug offences in 2012/13, a big drop on the 143 cases seen a year earlier.

At the same time, general arrests reported to Consulates fell from to 1,599 from 1,909 a year earlier — partly because of a new focus on prioritizing the most vulnerable cases, according to a news release from the British Embassy Madrid.

But all this positive news out of Spain is offset by the FCO's finding that the reported incidence of both rapes and sexual assault was up in the country.

The latest British Behaviour Abroad report  shows that 31 British citizens asked for consular assistance after a rape in Spain in 2012/13.

That figure was a much lower 18 in the previous year.

Meanwhile, 39 UK citizens went in search of consular help after a sexual assault in the 2012/13, up from 22 the year before.

Some 42 percent of these sexual attacks were in the Balearic Islands and alcohol was a factor in many of them, the FCO report says. 

The rise in the number of reported attacks in Spain was also part of a 10 percent rise globally in the numbers of people seeking consular assistance after rapes.   

"I am deeply concerned to see an increase in the number of reported rape and sexual assault cases involving British people," said Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister Mark Simmonds.

"The priority for our consular staff is the safety and wellbeing of British travellers and we will continue to work, including with other Governments and tour operators, to help to prevent further cases and provide all possible support for victims. 

"This support includes explaining local procedures, accompanying people to the police station, helping them deal with local authorities and medical staff, and contacting friends and family at home if that is wanted," Simmonds said.

The latest British Behaviour Abroad report also looked at hospitalizations in Spain.

The FCO figures shows such cases were down 10 percent in Spain — a fact which the FCO also puts down to a focus on more critical cases.  

Consulates have also strengthened ties with charities that support British nationals in less critical situations, allowing staff to focus on the most needy, the British Embassy in Madrid said in its news release.

Spain received 13,653,846 visits from British citizens in 2012/13 according to the British Behaviour Abroad Report 2013.

That put Spain in second place behind France which saw 17,100,000 visits from Brits in the same period.

Meanwhile, Spain is home to 795,784 UK citizens, putting the country in third place behind Australia and the USA.

Brits are the largest group of tourists in Spain and made up 27.1 percent of all international visits in May according to the country's national tourism authority.

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