More than two thousand Britons ended up in Spanish jails last year after being arrested for drunk and abusive behaviour.
Not only did the number of arrests for holidaymakers on the Costas increase by a third on the previous year, but 6,710 Britons contacted embassies to say they had lost their passports.
The figures were released yesterday by the Foreign Office, which added a double warning – behave yourself when you are abroad, and make sure that you have taken out travel insurance.
In addition to the 2,032 Britons arrested in Spain, 695 needed hospital treatment 29 were raped, and 1,591 – mostly permanent residents – died there. Most of the arrests were the outcome of heavy drinking.
Recent examples include an incident in which a Spanish girl who had been sent to learn English at a summer camp for 10 to 14-year-olds in Tossa de Mar rang her parents to say that she and other children had locked themselves in a bungalow to hide from their English tutors. The two British tutors were drunk and trying to force their way into the bungalow. After police arrived, other children complained of being slapped and getting demands for money. Three Britons were arrested and face charges.
In June a car jumped a red light in the Spanish town of Estepona, and ploughed into a group of people, injuring two women, a two year old, and two babies. Police found the vehicle nearby and impounded it. The next day, a British tourist called at the police station claiming his car was missing. He later admitted he was the driver.
Last year, there were 17 million visits by Britons to Spain, and 761,000 British citizens have moved there. Proportionate to their numbers, British visitors are more likely to be arrested in Cyprus, the United States or the United Arab Emirates than in Spain. While an average of six Britons a day were arrested in Spain, mostly for offences linked to excessive drinking, the ratio in Cyprus was even worse: one in 4,000 UK tourists to the island was arrested, compared with only one in 100,000 in France and Italy.
Many of the 230 Britons arrested in the UAE fell foul of the country’s zero tolerance policy on drugs. The authorities in the UAE also take a very strict line on drunkenness, bad driving, and any perceived anti-Islamic behaviour.
The figures also show that Indonesia and Thailand are more hazardous for British visitors than Spain, in proportion to the numbers. Thailand is the country where a British visitor is at the greatest risk of death or injury because of the high rate of traffic accidents. In Indonesia, one British visitor in every hundred is involved in an accident, or robbed of money or passports, or arrested for possessing drugs.
Meg Munn, a Foreign Office minister, said: “This report highlights what can go wrong on holiday. It is a reminder to all that taking out comprehensive travel insurance is a vital part of your holiday planning. Many of the problems faced by holidaymakers are preventable through simple research on the laws, customs and health requirements of a country.”