UK embassy ‘asked to find haggis chef in Brussels’

A PLEA for a Scottish chef to cook haggis in Brussels and ­advice on treating a cat’s infected paw were among the bizarre requests made by travellers to British consulate staff.

The request for a Belgium-based Scottish chef came from an event co-ordinator in Brussels. Picture: PA

Other cries for help included a query on how to rescue an event’s British-style floral displays and advice on tuning a TV in Italy to channels in English.

The embassy in Mexico City was asked to assist in finding out whether a man had left his mobile phone on a plane, while it was Foreign Office (FCO) staff in France who were asked about the cat’s infected paw.

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Foreign Office minister David Lidington said while consular staff provided assistance to thousands, they were not able to “act as veterinary surgeons”.

Last year the FCO’s contact centres received more than 365,000 calls from British nationals and while the vast majority were genuine requests from people who needed help, thousands related to issues that staff were unable to assist with.

The request for a Belgium-based Scottish chef came from an event co-ordinator in Brussels who was arranging a Burns Night celebration. A call in the US asking for assistance with a floral display came after the professional gardener hired to create hanging baskets for a trade fair got “stage fright”.

One British woman asked the consulate in Albania how to find out if her son’s fiancée was already married.

Mr Lidington said: “It is important for FCO consular staff to be able to focus on our most vulnerable customers, such as victims of crime, those who have lost a loved one abroad or people who have been detained or hospitalised overseas.

“Consular staff support thousands of British nationals who encounter difficulties overseas every year and we handle over 365,000 inquires annually.

“We will always try to help where we can but there are limits to what we can do, so it’s important for people to be aware of how we can help.

“We can issue an emergency travel document if your passport is lost or stolen, offer support if you become a victim of crime or visit you in hospital or prison, but we aren’t able to pay medical bills, give legal advice or get you out of jail, or indeed act as veterinary surgeons.”

Meg Williams, the head of the FCO’s global contact centres, said: “The role of the FCO contact centres is to help enable consular staff to focus on what is important and to concentrate on those in need.”