THE Balearic government yesterday joined the assault on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) over a warning the FCO posted on its web site for a limited time at the end of July.
As the Bulletin reported yesterday, based on official statistics, the FCO, whose obligation it is to make sure Britons travelling overseas are fully aware of any potential risk and dangers, posted a travel warning for Britons coming to Spain about an increase in alleged rapes in Calvia. They advised to behave responsibly in response to what at the time was a spate of alleged rapes in rge area.
At one point, there were two alleged rapes in the space of 24 hours.
The carefully worded warning was however swiftly removed around the start of August once the situation had returned to normal in Calvia. Yesterday, the Balearic Minister for Tourism Joan Flaquer, launched what he claimed was a damage limitation exercise and contacted tour operators and the various police forces to stress that the warning was unfounded.
Flaquer said that his department also asked Britain's leading tour operators if they had received any particular complaints and the answer was no.
What is more, Flaquer said that, according to the National Police and the Guardia Civil in the Balearics, the warning posted on the FCO web site did not reflect the reality of the situation.
He did however admit that the Balearics is a very popular and cherished holiday destination in the UK. According to both Calvia Council and AVIBA, the Association of Balearics Travel Agents, over the past few years there has been a rise in the number of tourists fraudulently reporting alleged rapes to the Police in order to claim the compensation they are entitled to in accordance with their travel insurance.
The director of AVIBA, Víctor Fernández, said yesterday that the FCO warning neither exactly nor strictly mirrored what is going on. There are many who will claim they have been raped to claim the insurance. It sounds a bit strange, but the police have detected more than one case, he said.
Fernández added that, with 3.5 million British tourists coming to the island every year there are going to be all sorts and some are going to make false reports to the police. I doubt there has been a rise in rapes in the area. We are hospitable, friendly and welcoming and the people who come to visit us come with a same frame of mind, these cases are the exception.
However, the AVIBA boss admitted that he approved of the steps taken by the FCO in issuing a warning aimed at helping to prevent incidents.
The fact that the warning was issued does not mean that these (rapes) are systematically happening and we have to be clear on that, he said.
Calvia Council yesterday praised both its police force and British tourists.
Tourism Councillor Kate Mentink said yesterday that general crime figures in the municipality are down this year, primarily thanks to extra police on the beat and more surveillance cameras in the main resorts. It was also because tourists, in particular the British which account for 40 per cent of visitors to Calvia, have behaved themselves much better than in previous years.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) never issued an official communique regarding the apparent increase in alleged rapes in Calvia.
The FCO, in compliance with its obligation to advise British travellers about any potential risks and dangers overseas, posted recommendations on its web site advising Britons coming to Spain to not let their guard down, behave responsibly drawing people's attention to an apparent rise in alleged rape cases.
The warning was based on official statistics provided by the Balearic authorities at the end of July when there was a sudden rise in alleged sexual assaults, including two rapes in the space of 24 hours.
British diplomatic sources explained yesterday that travel advice is reviewed on a weekly basis and as soon as the situation has stabilised the warning was removed at the start of August.
Calvia Councillor for Tourism Kate Mentink was aware of the warning and the incidents which prompted the FCO to take the action it did.
Mentink said that this summer both the Calvia Police and the FCO have acted correctly and to the best of their capabilities. The whole thing has been blown out of proportion and the story is out of time scale. When Calvia is full, we have 200'000 tourists in resorts, there are always going to be some kind of incidents but general crime figures are down this year. I hope this all dies down very quickly. British diplomatic sources are not officially commenting on something the FCO did over a month ago in full compliance with its responsibilities to the travelling British public.
The British Consulate in Palma dealt with six alleged rape cases in June and July of this year. According to Calvia Local Police, they have handled four alleged rape cases this summer, two less than the summer average of six.
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