Consular departments take advantage of several e-tools to keep in touch with nationals overseas. Here are three recent trends in using e-tools for consular assistance and protection. (Links point to examples on the web)
Call centres: 24/7 call centres operate from the capital to respond to calls from nationals overseas during emergencies. Nationals are also encouraged to register online with the foreign ministry or the nearest mission. (See Australian DFAT’s Smartraveller website)
Online travel advice: Travel advice for travel destinations is made accessible through the foreign ministry website. Consulates and embassies also have their own websites, blogs, text messaging services or twitter to keep people informed of activities in a particular consular district. (See U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou website)
Awareness and networking: In most instances, the foreign ministry website serves as the first source of information for those travelling and living abroad. Depending on the need, the website offers guidance and tips from travel checklists to dealing with specific issues such as forced marriages or international surrogacy. Websites also aim to make nationals aware of the limits of consular assistance under international laws.
Social networking is increasingly done with the help of widely available e-tools and also in partnership with other stakeholders. For example, FCO’s ‘Know Before You Go Campaign’ is run in partnership with the travel industry and uses YouTube to spread its messages. Consulates also use e-tools such as Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch with those abroad as well as facilitate social networking among nationals overseas.