Monday 2nd November 2009

UK renews efforts to keep a track of expatriates abroad

British citizens living and working in the UAE region are being urged to register on a central database that is maintained by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

More than 6 million British expatriates who are living abroad are being urged to participate in an international campaign that is being co-coordinated by the FCO. The aim of the campaign is to create a comprehensive record of all British nationals who live abroad. The FCO believe that such a record will be invaluable in assisting UK teams to provide help and assistance to any British citizens who are caught up in any type of emergency, such as a tsunami, hurricane or terrorist attack, whilst living overseas.

The FCO system, which is known as LOCATE, is primarily aimed at British expatriates who are living and working overseas, although people who are taking short trips abroad are also encouraged to input their details too. Users can register their contact details and travel plans online in a matter of minutes. The information is then directly distributed to relevant British embassies throughout the world and they are informed of who is in the country, how they can be contacted and where they will be staying. It is intended that information contained within the database can be used to communicate with UK citizens in the event of any emergency through issuing travel alerts, tracking missing people and contacting relevant family members. The FCO outline the following benefits to the locate database-

  • In the event of an emergency, authorities will have an instant record of where you are and how you can be contacted. Appropriate aid agencies will be able to contact any overseas nationals caught up in any emergency and ensure that they have access to appropriate help and advice.
  • Information contained within the database can be used to assist friends and family members to contact any overseas nationals who are caught in an emergency situation and therefore assist to reduce any stress endured by such parties.

Although the Locate database has been in existence since August 2008, there is a renewed effort taking place to inform expats living abroad of the need to register their details. Visiting the United Arab Emirates this weekend, Julian Braithwaite, FCO Director of Consular Affairs, commented on the need for British expats to use the system-

“If we’d had this system during the tsunami, we’d have known where the majority of the Brits were and it would have helped us enormously in trying to find who was missing”, he said, alluding to fact that during the 2004 tsunami many UK emergency aid workers had actually been dispatched to Sri Lanka as opposed to Phuket, where the biggest numbers of British citizens were at the time.

To register your details online visit https://www.locate.fco.gov.uk/locateportal/. You are only required to register for the service once and will then be sent reminders on an annual basis in order to keep your contact details up to date. The information inputted into the database is entirely confidentially and will only be used for consular purposes involving the need for the office to contact people who may be involved in an overseas incident.

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