Mar 08 2011
Victims need support in the European Union
One of your worst nightmares is to have a loved one injured in a random attack – it makes you feel so helpless. But it’s one hundred times worse if that attack happens in another country.
Last year the British Foreign Office gave consular support to over 2,000 people who were hospitalised in another European Union (EU) country. It also dealt with around 4,000 deaths of British citizens abroad but within the EU.
In all of these heartbreaking cases it is not just the victims themselves that are affected, but also countless family members and close friends who often don’t know where to start to navigate their away around a foreign country’s systems.
At present we have EU standards to ensure that people accused of crimes abroad are entitled to support and assistance. And it is vitally important for them to have those rights to ensure they are able to make their case.
However, the innocent victims of crime mustn’t be forgotten. They are also incredibly vulnerable in these situations. UK Labour MEPs are calling on the European Commission to come forward with a strong package of victims’ rights so that people aren’t left to simply fend for themselves under what are often incredibly traumatic conditions.
It is every parent’s worst nightmare: to know that your child is in a life-threatening condition in a country that is over a thousand miles away from home.
In a meeting this week Labour MEPs heard the story of Maggie Hughes, who had to spend over three months away from home when her son was left in a life-threatening condition after being beaten up while on holiday in Greece.
She came to Brussels to meet European Commission officials to ensure they understand exactly what she and her family went through.
She was in no doubt what is required is a well publicised Europe-wide helpline where all the agencies and individual contacts that families need to get hold of to enable them to reach their injured loved one and get them back home safely are there under one phone number..
What is needed is specialist trained professionals who can come together with compassion and understanding to offer the necessary practical and administrative support to families at this extremely traumatic time.
Unfortunately at the moment it’s no one’s job, and so at one of the most dreadful and worrying times of someone’s life, for maybe a parent or a spouse or a grandparent, it is almost impossible to get any information let alone help. The British Embassies do their best but do not have the resources to do more than the bare minimum.
Labour MEPs have given their backing to a campaign to make it easier for Britons who are victims of crime abroad to get the help and support they need.
The European Commission is putting finishing touches to a package that will help EU countries to coordinate the way they deal with victims in these cases.
Of course we hope that these things will never happen to us, and for most people trips abroad are problem free. But sadly many people are affected by crime while they are abroad and at present the EU isn’t doing enough to assist these vulnerable victims.
I will be campaigning with my Labour colleagues to ensure that the victims of crime aren’t forgotten nor left behind by EU law.