Over 1,200 Irish citizens sought help from State’s Embassies and Consulates last year

Deaths, missing persons, and arrests were among the cases handled by officials abroad

More than 1,200 Irish citizens sought help from Irish Embassies and Consulates overseas last year. File photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

More than 1,200 Irish citizens sought help from Irish Embassies and Consulates overseas last year. File photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

 

More than 1,200 Irish citizens sought help from Irish Embassies and Consulates overseas last year, new figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs have shown.

Deaths, serious injuries, missing persons, arrests and imprisonments were among the cases handled by the department’s consular officials in 2021.

The Department of Foreign Affairs also had to respond to crisis situations including the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, as well as what it said was a “very high number” of requests for advice and assistance on international travel given the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

All told, 220 Irish citizens died overseas in 2021, making deaths the single biggest issue requiring emergency consular intervention last year.

The department also assisted with 192 cases that were related to Covid-19, as well as responding to 127 arrests. There were 45 people who made contact with Embassies or Consulates after becoming victims of crime overseas, and the department’s mission network also responded to 59 cases involving mental health issues and 33 missing persons cases.

“While we may have travelled less in 2021 than in previous years, the demand for consular assistance from Irish citizens has remained high,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said.

“The nature of the consular assistance we provide is becoming increasingly complex. More and more cases involve difficult circumstances and require ongoing management for an extended period of time,” he continued.

Evacuation

Mr Coveney pointed to the support offered to citizens impacted by crises or by changes to the requirements for international travel in places such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Morocco and South Africa.

“In Afghanistan, for example, we assisted in the safe evacuation of 108 Irish citizens and their dependents since mid-August, including through the successful Emergency Civil Assistance Team (ECAT), and we continue to provide assistance to the small number of citizens remaining there. In early December, we also assisted 156 people to return to Ireland from Morocco, in very exceptional circumstances, following the suspension by the Moroccan authorities of regular commercial flights.”

He stressed the need for people travelling in 2022 to prepare for certain eventualities. “While most journeys overseas go smoothly, the statistics that we are releasing today show that things can go wrong. It is important to be prepared. In the year ahead, I urge those travelling to get comprehensive travel insurance. Anyone travelling to Europe should also carry an ‘EHIC’, European Health Insurance Card. Those travelling to high-risk countries should register their travel details using the department’s online Citizens’ Registration service, so that we can contact you should an unforeseen crisis arise while you are travelling.”