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I have a friend in an interesting situation. He suspects that he will be unsafe if he returns to his home country, and he is currently living in the UK with a valid visa. In order to renew his passport, he must go to his country's embassy in the UK, and I am curious what the security situation with this is.

I understand that if you are in an untrusted foreign country, your own embassy is able (to some extent) to protect you from the local police (if you have committed a crime in the host country you can of course be "extracted" from the protection of your embassy).

What I am asking is, if you enter your own country's embassy, are the host country's police able to help you, for example to protect you against being deported by embassy staff? For example, if you wish to stay in your current host country, can your passport-issuing country deport you back home if you step into their "jurisdiction" inside their embassy?

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    Related, nearly duplicate question on Expats: expatriates.stackexchange.com/q/8962/6 – gerrit Nov 17 '17 at 14:38
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    Your friend needs to be careful. Consider this comment by SJuan76. If your friend is currently a refugee, s/he should be aware that s/he may lose protection status for renewing his home country status. – gerrit Nov 17 '17 at 14:39
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    I'm not claiming to be an expert in the situation in any way, but if you're talking about Syria and being drafted into the military, I have heard of people applying for asylum on exactly those grounds. I don't know about the rate of success, however. – errantlinguist Nov 17 '17 at 15:13
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    This sounds a bit too serious to be seeking casual advice from random people on the internet. – Strawberry Nov 17 '17 at 15:14
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    @fkraiem the OP is about someone in a foreign country seeking consular services in regards to procuring a passport. How is this not about travel? – errantlinguist Nov 18 '17 at 11:15
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Assuming that your friend is in a conflict with the bureaucracy of his home country, a much more likely problem is that the consulate will simply refuse to extend the passport and your friend would be forced to either leave the UK or apply for asylum there. Kidnapping, assaulting or killing someone at a foreign consulate is guaranteed to cause a diplomatic scandal and it's unlikely that the local diplomatic staff will resort to that option.

Otherwise, the police generally would not be able to assist your friend right away. That's the whole point of the Vienna Convention. If the UK wasn't willing to extract Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy (granted that he's staying there willingly), they're unlikely to be willing to help out your friend.

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    Kidnapping has been attempted before and nearly succeeded. It did cause a diplomatic scandal. Had it been better prepared with documentation and diplomatic seals, it may have succeeded. However, because of the potential for scandal, it's only going to be contemplated for high-level fugitives. – Andrew Leach Nov 17 '17 at 16:19
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    @AndrewLeach As recently as this year Turkish government had attempted to kidnap Fethullah Gulen by bribing US National Security advisor Michael Flynn with $15 million – Evgeny Nov 18 '17 at 4:32
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An embassy's premises are "inviolable" by the authorities of the host country, so the host country couldn't prevent the embassy from detaining anyone there. The embassy would have a hard time getting someone out of the host country without the cooperation of host country authorities, however.

Of course, even if the UK could protect your friend, there is no guarantee that they would. They might not know about his plight, or they might not care about it. And even if they did want to help him in such a situation, he could nonetheless end up spending the rest of his life in that embassy.

If your friend truly fears for his safety, he should talk to a good immigration lawyer about whether it would be a good idea to apply for asylum. If such an application were successful, your friend would no longer need a passport from, or any other contact with, his country of citizenship.

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    Thank you, that's helpful. Asylum would be a last-resort option, since that would pretty much guarantee no more contact with his parents, since in this country even access to the internet is tightly-controlled, and there's little chance of smuggling messages or otherwise communicating with them. – Nicholas Wilson Nov 17 '17 at 14:57
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    @NicholasWilson So how does your friend communicate now with his parents, and how would having a passport from the country that endangers him help? (assuming, of course, that actually travelling back will be out of the question) – xLeitix Nov 17 '17 at 16:14
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    @Xen2050: Comparing Iran to North Korea is ludicrous. It would be worth your time learning a bit more about other countries before making these conclusions. Iran is not isolationist -- it's a few other countries (mainly the US) that are doing everything they can to isolate it from the rest of the world. Westerners tour it and often have very nice things to say about it.. And lest you haven't been reading the news, unlike North Korea, they actually entered a nuclear agreement with the West, and Europe is on their side right now. – Mehrdad Nov 18 '17 at 6:50
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    Countries 'Murica hates are often not hated at all by other countries, who have normal relations with them and don't understand what America's smoking. And if you think there's no propaganda in the USA just look at a typical American's view like @Xen2050 and how that is out of touch with the world. Very provincial country. Iran Air loves Boeing so much they smuggle parts... Easy sales but America won,t go after the business. Strange. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Nov 19 '17 at 1:15
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    @Xen2050: The reddit comment was just an example (I can't fit 50 examples in a comment) and I trusted you'd Google for more if you cared to fact-check (apparently not). Nobody was claiming Iran is "better" than North Korea. Your claim was that it is isolationist and I was correcting your misinformation and letting you know that it is, in fact, not isolationist, and that it'd be worth your time learning more about these countries. Every single sentence I wrote was addressing that comparison. If you're here to argue politics and which country is "worse", you found the wrong guy. – Mehrdad Nov 19 '17 at 23:44
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If your friend is a Syrian citizen, then I have a thing or two to say regarding this since I live in a country with more than 2 million Syrian refugees, they're not called refugees here, they have special treatment allowing them to move freely, work and study.

However, having many Syrian colleagues who have been through the same exact issue as your friend, I can assure you it will be fine. They might be called names in the embassy, but that's it. Syrian government can't afford to make things worse and lose the little support they have by doing something stupid as this.

Unless your friend is a high ranking member of one of the militias, or a close relative to one, then nothing should happen to him/her. Even if he was, I suspect he will be residing with the knowledge of the host country, and he/she will be knowing what to do.

In fact, it's known that the embassy will allow them to get a passport, hoping to have them travel to Syria so they can do the "magic" there, not in a foreign country especially a place like the UK where they try hard to clear their reputation of being mass murderers and so.

I also know a colleague who did not go to Syria since the beginning of the revolution, she renews her passport with no issues, yet she knows if she goes there she might not come back (according to her), she also claims that members of her family have disappeared (in Syria) for being a part of the revolution, but again they are just common people not high ranking members.

  • How many of those 2 million are temporary workers and their families who can be kicked out if they fail to satisfy their employers? – Andrew Grimm Nov 17 '17 at 23:13
  • @AndrewGrimm they can't be kicked out unless they commit a crime. They have a special treatment. – Nean Der Thal Nov 17 '17 at 23:33
  • @AndrewGrimm by definition, anyone who is a "temporary worker ... who can be kicked out" is not a refugee. – phoog Nov 18 '17 at 1:19
  • @phoog what I was suspecting was that they were refugees in the sense that they were fleeing conflict in Syria, but that the country that they're now in haven't categorised them as refugees or given them the rights that refugees have. – Andrew Grimm Nov 18 '17 at 1:35
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    @AndrewGrimm they have more rights that what a normal refugee would have, but knowing how biased you are, most likely this conversation is not going to do any good, I won't be falling in your usual nonsense this time :) so why don't you downvote and get done with it. – Nean Der Thal Nov 18 '17 at 1:44
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No. If you do not trust them, do not go there.

Not in "that part of town" where "everybody knows everybody" including foreign staff of the local embassy, local police, local court personnel, local judges, local magistrates, local lawyers, local attorneys, local barristers, ... All politics is local, they say.

You do not want to be "picked up" on a trumped-up miscellaneous trespass or other misdemeanor in "that part of town" and deported.

Establish a valid mailing address, and contact them preferably by mail, possibly by telephone, order your documents by mail, be very polite, and do not let them on to your suspicion.

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    Are you implying that embassy employees patrol the streets around the embassy and routinely arrest people they deem as suspicious (or make the local police arrest them and lead them into the embassy)? Such claims would need some pretty tough evidence. – vsz Nov 17 '17 at 19:09
  • I think this answer hasn't taken OP's question into consideration, or OP changed the question significantly. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Nov 17 '17 at 19:34
  • my exact experience in anytown, usa -- i've lived in many of them and i'm a citizen here -- throwing foreign nationals into the mix does not reduce the risk at all. i know it's no better in uk or cont eu – Justina Colmena Nov 17 '17 at 20:45
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    Was going to upvote from the 1st line, but then read further... I wouldn't stand around their front gate throwing rocks, but across the street & further away should be safe. – Xen2050 Nov 18 '17 at 2:59
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In short, your friend probably has no choice but to enter the embassy. Unless it's possible to give another person (e.g. a solicitor) mandate in writing to apply for renewal of the passport in your name.

(To answer the actual question: No, this is not "safe" if your friend does not trust his own country. The embassy is legally not part of the UK, so technically you are in your home country, under your country's laws and under control of your country's executive. Without a really, really, really urgent reason if you are a really, really important person, no UK institution will interfere with you being arrested in there.)

You stated that your friend has entered the UK with a valid visa. This means two things: First, he is rather obviously not a refugee but a visitor. Second, he is staying illegally if the passport expires during the stay.

Note:

You must have a valid passport to enter the UK. It must be valid for the whole of your stay. You may also need a visa, depending [...]

So, you basically have the choice of risking a visit to the embassy to get the passport renewed, or you're risking to be put on the list of illegal aliens along with the biometric stuff that you had to provide when applying for the visa (in the one country with the most surveillance cameras in the world).

If they catch you, and they likely will, chances are that you are expelled, and I wouldn't want to wager whether shouting out "Asylum!" at that point will prevent this from happening when you're an obvious illegal. In any case, being expelled will raise attention whereas having your passport renewed might, with some luck, just happen silently.

Talking to a lawyer may be an excellent idea.

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    This answer perpetrates perpetrates misunderstandings about the legal status of embassies. A diplomatic post is part of the host country's sovereign territory, and in principle the host country's laws apply inside its premises and the represented country's laws do not. The inviolability of the diplomatic premises can make it difficult for the host country's authorities to enforce their laws within the embassy complex without the embassy's consent, but be basic expectation is that the representation will make sure they're followed anyway. – Henning Makholm Nov 18 '17 at 12:13
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    As a less dramatic example, embassies are expected to follow the host country's labor law when they hire local help to be employed in the embassy, and the European Court of Justice has even held that an employee can sue the embassy to enforce his rights under labor law. Or, if a visitor to the embassy assaults an employee, that must be prosecuted by the host country's legal system; the represented country cannot demand to have the perpetrator extradited for prosecution in its own courts. – Henning Makholm Nov 18 '17 at 12:24

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