Consular review after Haiti

The Haiti earthquake has highlighted the need for coordination between EU emergency response teams, the head of the FCO’s Consular Crisis Group told consuls this month.

Addressing the Consular Corps, Emma Wade described conditions on the ground in the initial stages of the operation as “chaotic” with all nations “pitching in”.

The new European Action Service therefore “opened opportunities” for more coordinated crisis management across EU consular services, she said.

However, responding to the suggestion by EU President Herman van Rompuy for the creation of an EU-led ‘humanitarian rapid reaction force’, Ms Wade said it was more likely that consular emergency responses would remain national government-led rather than EU-led.

Another challenge facing all consular services was maintaining a global presence with limited resources. In the case of Haiti, Britain had to use the mission in the Dominican Republic to mount a response, supported by a Rapid Deployment Team of crisis specialists, based in the US, which was on the ground within 24 hours.

This ‘hub-and-spokes’ approach, bolstered by a network of honorary consulates and four RDTs, provided adequate coverage, she said.

The crisis had also been a useful test for the new FCO online registration system, LOCATE, she said. The system enabled consuls to locate and provide rapid assistance to those British nationals who had registered, but she admitted the numbers making use of the scheme were still low.

A new Consular Strategy for 2010-13 will be published in April in which issues, such as coordination and the better use of technology, will be addressed.

Head of the FCO Crisis Team Emma Wade and Consular corps President Guy van Glabeke