Warning over misuse of passports
Misuses of passports, with some being used as beermats and others being put through the wash, has led to a big increase in Britons forced to fork out for emergency travel documents (ETDs).
The number of ETDs, issued when passports are lost, stolen or damaged while abroad, was 28,783 in 2012/13, up just 234 (0.8%) on the 28,549 issued in 2011/12. But there was an increase of 300% in 'avoidable' cases - from 2254 in 2011/12 to 9,614 last year, the Foreign Office (FO) said.
The FO said cases included passports being damaged after being hidden in the freezer and being used as notebooks.
It added that more than a fifth (6,005), of the ETDs in 2012/13 were issued in Spain, while 3,180 were issued in the USA and 1,618 in Australia where a number of Britons have found their passport was no longer valid.
Of individual destinations, Barcelona was the top town for ETDs with 1,291 issued last year, mainly due to bags being stolen, distraction thefts or pickpocketing.
The FO's Southern Europe consular director Will Middleton said: "Our staff deal with people every day who require ETDs for a range of reasons. Some are victims of crime, but we also hear of passports being damaged carelessly, like becoming damaged after being hidden in the freezer.
"These are situations that could have been avoided and end up costing holidaymakers valuable time and money. We strongly advise people to look after their passport, keep it safe and check its validity well in advance of travel."