Australian Government consular assistance protocols for citizens in distress

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The following responses in burgundy type is the responses in full of how the Australian consular assistance provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the hypothetical case of:

An Australian citizen is employed legally abroad and has deductions for that countries compulsory social welfare scheme deducted from his salary but the employer does not remit this to the social welfare fund.

The employer becomes seriously ill but is not covered for free hospital care because the employer failed to make compulsory payments. The family make payments but run out of money and move the patient to a cheaper hospital.

The local embassy is advised their foreign citizen is extremely ill and receiving a questionable standard of medical care.

1. Would Australian embassy officials raise the employment protection rights of Australian workers with the foreign government?

It is unlikely we would raise this issue with a foreign government on behalf of one individual. Private employment disputes are outside the scope of our Consular Services Charter. We would recommend the person seeks professional legal advice on his employment conditions.

We would assist by providing a list of local English-speaking lawyers. However if there was an obvious trend and we were receiving information of more cases on a similar vein, we would raise our concerns with the foreign government at an appropriate level. We have bilateral consular consultations with some of our key consular partners, and this would be an appropriate forum to raise this kind of issue.

2. Approximately how long after being notified that an Australian citizen is in distress would local consular staff organize a face-to-face meeting to investigate for themselves?

Depending on the nature of the consular case, we would arrange a visit as soon as practical, for example in cases of hospitalisation or arrest we would arrange to visit as soon as possible, depending on the location of the person.

If we weren’t able to see them immediately we would attempt to contact them by other means (ie phone) to establish their welfare and determine the best way to assist them.

In places where we have no mission, depending on the location of the person, we may be able to call on the assistance of an Australian Honorary Consul to make contact with the person, and in other locations consular assistance is provided to Australians by the Canadians.

3. Would a telephone call to the sick citizen be considered adequate consular assistance – especially if repeated alerts were being provided that the citizen was gravely ill and deteriorating?

In cases where we are notified that an Australian is gravely ill, and was seeking consular assistance, we would make every attempt to contact them. We would normally attempt to visit them, depending on their location.

4. If this Australian citizen was going to be evicted from a hospital due to lack of insurance cover that should have been provided by the employer, how would embassy staff react?

Consular staff would assist the client to explore every possible avenue to raise the money to cover their hospital costs. This would include – with the client’s permission – contacting friends, family and others who may be able to provide assistance. We would also continue to encourage the client to engage a lawyer, to pursue their case legally with their employer.

In general the overall Australian Government consular assistance protocols are not significantly different to the UK Government policy, with the the exception being the Australian response to questions two and three.

The owner of this website can personally attest to numerous first-hand experiences and observations where DFAT staff in foreign missions globally have provided Australian Government consular assistance to him and others in arduous and often remote locations and or conditions.

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