x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Register of British expats in the UAE to be axed

A service that allows British expats and tourists to register their contact details with their embassy so they can receive help in the event of a crisis is to close next month.

DUBAI // A service allowing British expatriates and tourists to register with the embassy so they can receive help in a crisis is to close next month.

Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) pulled the plug because too few people were using the Locate online system.

Just 1 per cent of the UAE's estimated 100,000 residents and million annual visitors took part.

British embassies worldwide, including those in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, will now wait until a crisis occurs before arranging ways for citizens to make contact.

"British nationals will continue to receive the same level of consular support while in the UAE and will still be able to log their details with the FCO if they are affected by a crisis and need help," stated an embassy newsletter.

"Depending on the nature of a crisis, we may open a telephone hotline and a new SMS service."

The Locate system will shut down on May 14. The embassy is encouraging Britons to use social media to keep in touch.

Edward Hobart, the UK's consul general in Dubai, described the change as a switch from a "just in case" system to a "just in time" one.

"A very small proportion of the British community registered and the database became very out of date," he said. "People didn't unregister when they left the country."

He said the "just in time" solution encouraged people to contact the embassy only "at a point when we do have a problem".

Other countries continue to operate systems similar to Locate. The US encourages citizens to register their presence in the UAE using a service run by the department of state.

csimpson@thenational.ae