x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Number of British fatalities in UAE sparks insurance warning

In the 12 months to April, 75 Britons died compared with 56 in the same period 12 months earlier, according to the British Behaviour Abroad Report released by the UK foreign and commonwealth office yesterday.

DUBAI // The number of Britons who died in the UAE in the 12 months to last April rose by a third.

This has prompted consular officials to warn UK travellers to take out insurance before visiting the country.

In the 12 months to April, 75 Britons died compared with 56 in the same period 12 months earlier, according to the British Behaviour Abroad Report released by the UK foreign and commonwealth office yesterday.

And the number of Britons requiring consular assistance for hospital treatment increased to 41 from 31.

Consular officials issued their travel insurance warning saying the cost of repatriating a relative's body can be prohibitively high.

"We have known situations where the families of those who have died, or whose relatives have been hospitalised, have suffered serious financial repercussions because there was no travel insurance in place," a spokeswoman for the British Embassy said.

Vivian Albertyn, the managing partner of Middle East Funeral Services, provides services for about 20 cases a month, five of whom are Britons. But few are the result of crime.

"You tend to have more motor car accidents or heart attacks," Mr Albertyn said. "There are a lot more sudden deaths."

He said about four in five Britons had taken out travel insurance.

The families of those who had not were hit with bills of between Dh25,000 and Dh35,000 to repatriate a body. For expatriates who hold bank accounts or debt, the problem can be compounded.

A body can only be repatriated after the death is registered with the police, and a death certificate is certified and attested with the Ministry of Health and then signed off with the embassy. During that process, the person's bank account is frozen.

"It's not just a question of how much it costs to repatriate a body," said Craig Holding, the financial adviser and associate director of Acuma Wealth Management. "It can become a big issue for families involved."

The UK report also showed that between 2008 and 2009, 294 British nationals were arrested, making the Emirates the most likely place for them to be taken into police custody abroad.

Last year that fell to 265, although the country still ranked second only to Thailand, as a percentage of the total number of British residents and tourists.

In a bid to reduce the number further, consular officials have been touring schools to educate teenagers on the rules of living in the Emirates.

This year the UAE is ranked seventh with only 217 arrests, with the Philippines on top.

Guy Warrington, the British consul general in Dubai, said his staff would do their best to bring the number down.

"It is encouraging that the numbers are moving in the right direction and that British nationals are now less likely to get arrested than they were a year ago," Mr Warrington said.

"But this is still too high and so the message we are putting out is still very important even if the work we have done to raise awareness is having a positive effect."

Dubai Police declined to comment on the arrest rate of any specific nationality.

mcroucher@thenational.ae