BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 11:12 GMT
Drugs warning to Britons abroad
Opium poppy field Thailand
Opium is easy to get hold of in countries like Thailand
Young people are being warned against using or smuggling drugs on holiday, as part of a Foreign Office (F0) campaign.

The government wants to smash popular misconceptions that drug use is tolerated in European holiday destinations like Spain and Greece, and that the FO can get Britons out of jail.

There are currently more than 1,500 Britons in foreign jails for drug offences.

Foreign drug laws
Cyprus - A zero tolerance policy and possession can lead to a hefty fine or even life imprisonment
Spain - Up to 12 years for carrying
Greece - Life imprisonment for carrying even small quantities
Jamaica - Mandatory prison sentences, conditions are harsh
Turkey - Death sentence for some offences
Tunisia - Jail for carrying even small amount

The charity Prisoners Abroad says sentences of 40 to 50 years are not uncommon in South East Asia.

But the FO is stressing that people taking drugs in popular Mediterranean destinations are just as likely to encounter harsh treatment.

It has enlisted the help of tour company Club 18 to 30 to help get its message across.

Sarah Dring, of the FO's consular division, said: "Other European countries are often stricter than Britain on soft drug use.

"Just because something is tolerated in Lambeth don't assume you can get away with it in Aiya Napa.

"Cyprus, for example, has a zero tolerance policy. In Spain, people are jailed for up to 12 years for having a small amount of drugs."

Prisoners Abroad is currently in contact with 1,500 Britons in foreign jails.

"We see lives destroyed for a small amount of drug use on holiday," said spokesman Ian Acheson.

'No magic wand'

"Smoking cannabis may be no big deal in this country but in India you get 10 years.

"We don't want to patronise young people but they should be aware that if they try to smuggle drugs the chances of getting caught are very high."

Mr Acheson, a former UK prison governor, added conditions in foreign jails can be "life-threatening".

The FO is keen to dispel the myth that it can get people out of trouble.

"There is no magic wand," said Mr Acheson.

Ms Dring confirmed: "We can't get them out of jail. We can make sure they get legal representation but we don't pay for it."

See also:

03 Jul 00 | UK
Locked up in a foreign land
20 May 01 | Middle East
Life for drug charge Britons
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories