Arrest and prison abroad

If, while travelling as a British national, you are arrested or detained overseas, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) or the nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate can give advice on local laws and procedures, contact friends and family and help find a lawyer.

If you are arrested

If you are arrested or detained, you should contact the nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate as soon as possible - the police might also do this on your behalf.

The British embassy, high commission or consulate will contact you within 24 hours of being told about the arrest and try to visit you as soon as possible.

The British consulate will also arrange for friends and family to be told:

  • that you've been arrested
  • details of the arrest
  • contact details for you

The FCO can only give out this information if you have given your permission.

Help available

The help the FCO and British consulate can offer if you've been arrested or are a prisoner includes:

  • providing general information about the country, prison conditions and the local legal system (including if legal aid is available)
  • providing a list of local lawyers and interpreters
  • telling the police or prison doctor about any medical or dental problems with your permission
  • helping with complaints about the police or prison (for example, ill treatment, personal safety, discrimination) with your permission
  • sending money to you from your family
  • sending messages between you and your family
  • putting you in touch with the charity Prisoners Abroad
  • helping you apply for a transfer to UK where possible
  • visiting you when needed

What the FCO and British consulate can’t do

The FCO and British consulate won’t be able to:

  • get you out of prison or detention
  • help you get special treatment
  • offer legal advice, start legal proceedings or investigate a crime
  • pay for any costs as a result of being arrested
  • forward packages sent by friends or family to you
  • prevent authorities from deporting you after release
  • get involved if you are a dual national and are arrested in a country for which you hold a valid passport, unless there’s a special humanitarian reason to do so



If you become involved in taking, carrying or dealing in drugs while on holiday, or try to bring drugs back with you, it could cost you dearly.

Depending on what country you are in, if caught in possession of narcotics you could face anything from a fine to the death penalty

Don't allow yourself to be persuaded or coerced into carrying drugs - it's not worth risking your life or spending years or even life in prison.

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

Travelling on an Irish passport

If you are travelling on an Irish passport, you can find useful information on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

More useful links

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