The FCO is broken
The first thing most foreign nationals do when they experience problems abroad is to contact their embassies. It is fair to say that people expect their countries’ diplomats to swoop in and protect them with all the weight of their governments behind them, particularly citizens of Western democracies. The experience of British nationals in the UAE could not be further from this expectation.
“You are actually on your own,” says Jamie Harron, a British citizen who was detained in the UAE 3 years ago after brushing past a man in a Dubai nightclub who later accused him of assault. When Harron contacted the British Embassy, he was told that they could not get involved in the case. Harron’s experience is representative.
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, who has helped free thousands of British nationals from wrongful detention in the UAE says that the FCO is letting British citizens down. “Typically, consular staff just provide people with a list of local lawyers, visit inmates with inconsistent frequency, and help relay communication with their families,” Stirling explains, “There is no question that the FCO has the power to intervene and resolve cases where injustice and abuse are obvious; as we saw in the Matthew Hedges case; but the fact is, the FCO seldom gets involved.”
Matthew Hedges was a British scholar arrested in Dubai on false charges of espionage while working on his PhD thesis in the Emirates. Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt castigated the UAE over the case and even threatened sanctions, leading to Hedges eventually being pardoned by the Ruler of Dubai.
“We have seen very p