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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Coping in a crisis
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The department does "all it can" for victims' families
Britain's Foreign Office has come in for some criticism from families stranded in Bali following last weekend's nightclub bombing.

Volunteers who stepped in to help at hospitals and emergency centres complained they were having to identify dead bodies, draw up official victims lists and inform relatives of deaths.

However, the Foreign Office has countered the claims by confirming consular staffing in Bali is being reinforced.

Here, the department's Crisis Management Unit outlines its role to BBC News Online.


  • The unit is part of the Consular Division of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which prepares for, and manages, major consular crises.

  • Its overall aim is the protection of British nationals overseas.

  • This team is backed up by 10 staff who are on permanent 24/7 call.

  • The unit takes calls from worried friends and family members and may remain open on a 24 hour, 7 days a week basis depending on the scale of the crisis.

  • It can be activated within a couple of hours and was so in the case of the bomb explosion in Bali.

  • When demand outstrips capacity, it seeks the help of New Scotland Yard's Casualty Bureau. To date, this has been used on four occasions: September 2000 (Greek ferry disaster); January 2001 (Indian earthquake); 11 September 2001 (terrorist attacks in New York); 12 October 2002 (Bali bomb explosion).

  • In the host country, the Embassy's role will vary depending on the crisis. They will always do all they can for the families and victims.

  • The role could include co-ordinating the British government response locally; helping the families navigate local bureaucracy; visiting victims in hospital; helping arrange the repatriation of bodies and medical evacuation.

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    See also:

    17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
    18 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
    18 Oct 02 | England
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