Of the 3,200 British Nationals imprisoned abroad, over a third are held for drug offences. There are concerns that a growing number of Britons, especially young people, are becoming involved in taking, carrying or dealing in drugs whilst on holiday.
Getting involved with drugs abroad: the risks
If you take drugs on holiday abroad or try to bring drugs back with you, it could cost you a lifetime in jail.
- many countries outside the UK refuse to grant bail to those suspected of drugs offences before trial and often detain people in solitary confinement
- you will get a criminal record in the UK if caught with drugs abroad
- if you've been caught with drugs abroad, you're unlikely to ever be allowed to visit that country again
- if you get injured or ill as a result of illicit drugs use, your holiday insurance may be invalidated and your tour operator can refuse to fly you home
- in Cyprus, there is a zero tolerance policy towards drugs and possession, which usually leads to a hefty fine or even life imprisonment
- in Spain, penalties are severe and sentences for carrying drugs can be up to 12 years
- in Greece, possession of even small quantities of drugs can lead to lengthy prison terms and even life imprisonment
- in Tunisia, possession of even a small amount of drugs could cost you a term in prison, and more serious charges may result in 20 years' imprisonment plus a fine
- in Jamaica, drug offences result in large fines and mandatory prison sentences (possession of even small quantities can lead to imprisonment and prison conditions are harsh)
- in Venezuela, drug carriers face minimum 10-year prison sentences in harsh conditions
- Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Iran and Algeria can impose the death sentence for some drugs charges
If you get involved with drugs abroad, the British Consul cannot:
- get you out of jail
- get you better prison conditions than are provided for locals or other nationals
- give legal advice
Don't be a victim of drugs abroad
To make sure you don't become a victim of drugs abroad, you should:
- pack all luggage yourself and make sure it's securely fastened
- keep your luggage with you at airports and other departure points to avoid the possibility of having drugs planted in it
- be aware of approaches from people at airports - even seemingly innocent requests to look after someone's possessions can lead to problems
- don't carry anything through customs for someone else - if drugs are found, you will be held responsible
- for similar reasons don't cross borders with people you don't know or drive across borders with unknown companions
- carry a doctor's prescription for any medication you may need to avoid unnecessary delays at customs and immigration checks
- be very cautious when accepting gifts from people abroad - it's easy to hide drugs in items such as trainers, cosmetics and children's toys
- don't allow yourself to be persuaded or coerced into carrying drugs - it's not worth risking your life or spending seven years or even life in prison for £2,000
Visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Travel Advice pages for information on drug laws and penalties country by country.
The drugs trade also has a worldwide environmental impact. To find out more about this and its economic and social effects on local communities, visit the Tourism Concern website. Tourism Concern is a charity campaigning for ethical and fairly traded tourism.
If you are travelling with an Irish passport you can find useful information on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin.