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Consular Special Report – Embassy 49

Meeting the consular challenge

The Embassy Consular Conference, held in partnership with the Consular Corps of London, examined the challenges facing consuls in the 21st century and the technologies and services available to assist them.

More than any time in history, people are on the move and living abroad. According to UN data, in 2013, 232 million people (3.2 per cent of the world’s population), were international migrants, compared with 154 million in 1990.

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) reported that the volume of tourists grew 5 per cent in 2013, reaching a record 747 million worldwide.

At the same time, many economies in the West are struggling to emerge from deep recession and unemployment persists. The drawbridges are being raised, attitudes towards immigration are hardening and immigration laws are getting tougher.

Caught between these two tectonic pressures are the world’s hard-pressed consuls. They assist ever-growing volumes of migrants and process millions of visas and passport applications, with ever-diminishing funds due to budget cuts, all the while keeping pace with increasingly complex immigration legislation and technological advances to prevent document fraud.

The Embassy Consular Conference was an opportunity to bring together the consular community in London, the world’s most multicultural city, to discuss solutions to these growing demands.

Outlined in the report are summaries of the sessions, which included discussions on Britain’s new Immigration Bill; detecting and preventing document fraud; assisted voluntary returns; consular crisis management; and consular technology, such as case management software and social media as an outreach tool.

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