New rights for victims of crime in Europe - Specialist services for tourist victims
The tourist who becomes a victim of crime has been described as the quintessential victim. It is generally accepted that tourists and other travellers have a higher risk of victimisation than the residents of a country. Nor, if the case goes to trial, do their problems end when they return home. Victims may experience difficulty in finding a local lawyer, and find it both difficult and expensive to arrange travel, accommodation and possible fees for the court appearances which invariably take them back to the scene of the crime.
According to the World Tourism Organisation, Europe was the star performer of world tourism in 2000 accounting for 58% of international tourism, or approximately 403,300,000 people. (11) The most common crimes experienced by tourists are vehicle theft, handbag theft, currency exchange fraud, and cash, credit card or travellers' cheque theft. One-third of European holidaymakers worry about personal safety on holiday. (12)
In the early nineties reported crime was high in Ireland. Of particular note during the summer months was the amount of crime involving tourists in Dublin city and the surrounding area. Victim Support wanted to respond. They had been impressed by a service for tourists in Amsterdam and decided to establish a pilot for a similar project in Dublin. The first task was to raise an estimated £21,000 to cover an initial six-month project. Having the support of the Department of Tourism was considered crucial for the initiative; the Minister was approached and a grant of £5,000 was paid through Bord Failte (Irish Tourist Board). Similar donations were received from the Dublin Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce and Aer Rianta (Airports Authority); smaller donations came from other sources. A co-ordinator with a Victim Support background, fluent in three foreign languages, was appointed and volunteers with a range of language skills were also recruited and trained.
In April 1994 the Minister for Justice launched the Dublin Tourist Victim Support Service. The initial six-month project proved extremely successful. Some 267 cases were referred involving 303 visitors. Virtually all clients elected to continue their holiday in Ireland after receiving assistance. It was decided to continue the service all year. In subsequent years 'Dublin' was dropped from the title and the service was extended to the rest of the country. Volunteers in local Victim Support branches were trained to assist victimised tourists, especially in those areas popular with tourists. To date some 5,307 people have benefited from Tourist Victim Support intervention.
Tourist Victim Support focuses on the Victim Support concept of emotional support and practical help. It offers a comprehensive service where all the issues facing the tourist victim in the aftermath of a crime can be addressed, with a view to resolving difficulties, minimising the impact and enabling them to continue with their holiday plans. Emotional support is of primary importance. Practical assistance consists mainly of advocacy and help in replacing travel and identity documents, contacting insurance companies, banks, embassies and carriers.
The success of the service depends on extensive support coming from a cross-section of tourism-related industries, by way of direct funding and benefit-in-kind. Tourists who are robbed may require support to meet immediate needs i.e. accommodation, meals, transport, etc and it is necessary to have these readily available. Assistance is often required in sourcing replacement medication. Tourist Victim Support does not advance funds and all referrals come through the police.