Part 4: Emergency loans and administration
Chapter 17: Travellers' emergency loans issued by Australian honorary consuls and Canadian posts
Travellers' emergency loans, issued either by Australian honorary consuls or Canadian posts, are issued solely on the authority of the supervising Australian mission responsible for ensuring that the normal processing procedures for the issue of a loan are followed. The supervising Australian mission is expected to obtain from the issuing sub-post the necessary information to complete a full record of the loan, including entering information into SAP, and producing the loan documentation.
When contact with the supervising mission is not possible, requests to issue a loan can be referred to the Consular Emergency Centre for approval by authorised officers within Consular Operations Branch Canberra (ie. Director Consular Operations Section Team A and Director Consular Operations Section Team B/Consular Operations Branch and team managers A and B).
Travellers' emergency loans are not to exceed AUD150 per person (plus any amount lent for Australian travel document replacement fees), irrespective of where the loan is made, unless prior approval has been obtained from Consular Operations.
Prior to contacting the supervising Australian mission, an officer:
- checks the applicant’s citizenship status in their passports/travel documentation
- checks the applicant’s passport for previous loans or irregularities
- interviews the applicant to establish that a loan will be of assistance and used for relief.
Officers are to contact the Australian supervising mission (if unavailable the 24 hour Consular Emergency Centre) with the following details:
- client personal details
- loan amount requested in AUD
- why the loan is needed
- why the loan is recommended.
The Australian supervising mission checks Passport Issuing Control System to:
- confirm that the personal details are correct
- obtain information to confirm the traveller’s identity
- check the applicant’s passport for previous loans or irregularities.
Upon confirming these points, the supervising Australian post enters the details into SAP by following the instructions on the SAP Help Card. The required documentation, including Undertaking to Repayment Deed, is returned to the issuing office by fax.
Before issuing funds, the issuing office will ensure the Terms and Conditions of the loan are read aloud to the person signing for the loan before they sign. This document is forwarded with the original Deed of Undertaking to Repay to the supervising Australian post.
A copy of the Deed of Undertaking to Repay is given to the recipient. The recipient is advised that this copy is their only advice on the amount of the loan and no further correspondence will be entered into unless the loan goes into default.
Any loan record is maintained in Australian dollars, using the conversion rate (spot rate) applicable at the post on the day the loan is made.
Australian Honorary Consuls and Canadian missions must confirm to the supervising Australian mission that the payment has been made on the day the Travellers’ Emergency Loan is issued.
When the Australian Honorary Consul or Canadian mission has provided the details of the Undertaking to Repay to the supervising Australian mission and has forwarded the original Explanation of Terms and Conditions and Deed of the Undertaking to Repayment, all responsibility for administering the records of the loan and the loan itself lies with the Australian supervising mission.
17.3 Terms and conditions
Prior to any paperwork being signed, the DFAT representative reads aloud the following information to the person signing the documentation
17.4 Forms required for Travellers' Emergency Loans
Recipient signs the Explanation of Terms and Conditions.
Recipient signs a Deed of Undertaking to Repay.
Adult signs the Explanation of Terms and Conditions.
Adult signs a Deed of Undertaking to Repay on behalf of Minor.
Australian honorary consuls and Canadian missions seeking reimbursement for money issued to an Australian citizen under the conditions and procedures outlined in this chapter, advise their supervising Australian mission of the following information:
- name of issuing post
- Undertaking to Repay (UTR) number
- passport number
- recipient’s full name
- permanent address in Australia (or overseas if permanently/long-term overseas)
- AUD amount
- date of loan.
The supervising Australian mission will issue a cheque or credit the official bank account. Under no circumstances will money be credited to a private bank account.
17.6 Checklist travellers' emergency loan
Staff issuing travellers' emergency loans should, in addition to the items in the checklist, ensure they are fully familiar with all guidance in this chapter.
Chapter 18: Travellers' emergency loans issued by emergency response team
In an emergency the Government will decide any special assistance measures which could include ex-gratia payments, disaster payments, provision of services including accommodation and transport, etc. Any decision on Travellers' Emergency Loans are made against this background and in consultation with Canberra. When Travellers' Emergency Loans are to be issued the following guidelines apply.
Travellers' Emergency Loans issued by the designated Head of an Emergency Response Team are issued solely on the authority of the supervising mission or the Consular Emergency Centre, following approval by Assistant Secretary Consular Operations Branch or Director Consular Operations Section Team B. The supervising mission is usually responsible for ensuring the normal processing procedures for issuing a Travellers' Emergency Loan are followed and are expected to obtain from the Emergency Response Team the necessary information to complete a full record of the loan, including entering information into SAP and producing the loan documentation.
Depending on the scale of the emergency and the resources available at the supervising post, it may be determined by Consular Policy Branch that Travellers' Emergency Loans will be entered in SAP in Canberra. If so, Director Crisis Management Section will contact Director Management Information Systems to make appropriate arrangements and issue appropriate instructions to the Head of the Emergency Response Team.
Travellers' Emergency Loans are not to exceed AUD150 per person (plus an amount to replace Australian travel documents), irrespective of where the loan is made, unless prior approval has been obtained from Consular Operations. Each person in a family group travelling together, irrespective of age, may receive a loan. Loans issued to minors are recorded against an accompanying adult's name. The amount of the loan may vary, according to determinations by the Government in the context of a specific emergency, and the Emergency Response Team will then be authorised by Canberra (Crisis centre or Crisis Management Section) to issue the loan in accordance with the amount authorised for the specific emergency.
The Head of the Emergency Response Team will be authorised to approve Travellers' Emergency Loans and must also be a delegate to approve expenditure of public money.
Emergency response teams are not expected to be able to access SAP from the Silk kit laptops provided and will, instead, print and use blank Deeds of Undertaking to Repay from chapter 13.9 of this Handbook. Prior to issuing a Travellers’ Emergency Loan, Emergency Response Team officers need to observe the following procedures:
- check the applicant’s citizenship status in their passport/travel document or Passport Issuing Control System if the person is unable to produce a passport/travel document;
- check the applicant’s passport or Passport Issuing Control System for previous loans or irregularities; and
- establish that the applicant has a real need for assistance and a travellers’ emergency loan will provide adequate relief.
The Head of the Emergency Response Team is required to advise the supervising mission or the Consular Emergency Centre (by cable if possible) of the details of each loan within two days of its issue. The head of the team is also to ensure that a full list of all loans issued during the crisis is provided to Consular Operations within two days of the completion of the Emergency Response Team deployment to allow for a reconciliation.
Upon receipt of the advice from the team, the supervising mission (or Management Information Systems staff in Canberra) follows the “Create a Consular Loan” SAP Help Card and enters the details into SAP to generate another Undertaking To Repay, writes the SAP-generated UTR number on the signed UTR and scans both documents into CMIS.
Emergency Response Team officers should make every practicable effort in the circumstances to obtain and sight evidence of the loan recipient’s permanent address in Australia or, if they do not have a permanent Australian address, an Australian address of a friend or family member contactable for debt recovery.
Chapter 19: Consular Services Special Account (CSSA)
In some exceptional and emergency cases, problems can be resolved by the early transfer of funds through the official account using the procedures of Consular Services Special Account. This mechanism can also help a traveller who has funds but cannot access them through commercial channels. The guiding principle is that the special account should be used only when there is no alternative.
19.1 Conditions and procedures
Provided it is clear that the recipient is an Australian citizen, cases which may be considered for resolution by the Consular Special Services Account procedure are:
- matters of genuine urgency, such as death or immediate need to travel
- when there is no available commercial channel to provide an adequate alternative
- when slow or unreliable local banking services may cause significant deterioration in the citizen’s welfare
- when persons have no access to a bank, for example prisoners or persons in hospital or otherwise immobilised who are unable to accept a direct transfer of funds from the person’s Next of Kin or other supporter. Consular Services Special Account should not be used to meet legal costs and/or bail for Australians detained overseas. Any requests of this nature are referred to the Director or Manager of Consular Operations for advice.
The system should be used only for relatively small amounts sufficient to meet immediate needs or to pay urgent accounts on hand (eg. hospital, funeral, fares, etc.).
The account should not be used when there is reason to believe the applicant is deliberately attempting to use the system for convenience or gain. The account is not a replacement for normal banking channels, even when these services are slow or unreliable, unless a delay in receiving funds could lead to a significant deterioration in the welfare of an Australian citizen.
Posts may recommend use of the account but must seek final approval from Consular Operations. State and territory offices may not accept funds for transfer into the Consular Special Services Account until they have received approval from Consular Operations for the transfer. When advising amounts to be forwarded by the account, posts advise the total amount required in reimbursable currency, the current SAP spot exchange rate (not the budget exchange rate) and the amount required in AUD. Consular Operations add the account transaction fee of AUD40 before contacting the funds provider. If the funds are urgent, the client should be instructed to request the bank transfer the funds as a Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS), which may incur an additional fee.
Posts should allow in their calculations for exchange rate variations to avoid exceeding the total funds in the account. If an exchange rate variation means the Department needs to request additional funds from the provider to top up the account, the provider will be required to pay another AUD40 fee.
When arrangements to lodge funds for Consular Special Services Account transfer to a post are made directly with a person in Australia (usually through a reverse charge telephone call by the traveller), it is important to instruct the person providing the money to contact Consular Operations for advice on how to remit the funds. Providers of funds must be advised not to present themselves at a regional office before making this contact. Failure to make prior contact may result in the donor making an unnecessary and fruitless trip, and delay receipt of funds by the traveller. Payments into the account can be in cash, money order or credit card. The form for credit card transactions is at 19.2.
Posts must inform their client that Consular Operations will transmit remittances as soon as possible, but should note that there is no guarantee as to when the funds will be available for disbursement at post.
When offices accept funds into the system for which they must issue receipts, details of allocation must be obtained from Consular Operations before the funds can be used. The heavy accounting work associated with the Consular Special Services Account requires that posts keep its use to a minimum.
All Consular Special Services Account expenditure carries an individual internal order number which is unique to each account and is advised by Consular Operations when the allocation advice is forwarded. Posts should not commit funds until this advice is received.
19.2 Credit card payment advice
Before cases are closed,, posts will be required to prepare a full reconciliation of expenditure of CSSA funds and forward it to the CCD DCU. Any residual funds will be returned to the provider. The CCD DCU will process the reimbursement, send the cheque and advise CONOPS once the cheque has been cleared in SAP.
19.3 Direct bank transfer advice
Chapter 20: Consular emergency services facility
This facility provides services in an emergency to Australians travellers overseas who are assessed as in need or whose welfare is under threat, but do not have the capacity to enter into legally binding agreements and for whom there is no person with legal capacity who will enter into a legally binding agreement on their behalf.
These services can be required to manage extreme situations, including medical evacuations for life-threatening illnesses or injuries. They can be used for the repatriation or welfare of minors when an adult cannot be found to take responsibility, and, in the case of deceased travellers, when the Next of Kin cannot be found or, if found, does not have the resources to provide burial/cremation/repatriation of the remains and the local authorities will not provide the service. In this case a pauper's funeral will be provided.
Travellers who require these services may be unable to sign legally binding agreements because:
they are unconscious or
their mental state is assessed as unable to comprehend the obligations they would be committing themselves to or
they are minors or
they are deceased and there is no person with the capacity to enter into a legally binding agreement on their behalf who will enter into an agreement to provide the required service.
The beneficiary must be an Australian citizen. The traveller does not have medical or traveller's insurance or the terms of their insurance excludes the risk incurred by the traveller.
No one who meets the criteria will sign a loan to provide financial assistance.
The beneficiary is a short-term traveller rather than an Australian who lives overseas semi-permanently or permanently.
In practice, however, there will be cases when there is no alternative to providing assistance to the latter, for example, traveller who is unconscious, medical opinion is that the need for treatment is clearly urgent, and delay could be to the serious detriment to the health of the patient.
When medical opinion is that because of the traveller's mental state they would be unable to comprehend the obligations they would be committing themselves to, the welfare of the traveller is assessed as being at extreme risk if assistance, including repatriation, is not provided.
In the case of a minor, the welfare of the traveller is assessed as being at extreme risk if assistance, including repatriation, is not provided.
In the case of the death of a traveller, the local authorities will not cover the cost of a pauper's funeral.
Before committing any funds for medical assistance/repatriation, the post must:
obtain written medical advice that the patient is unable to sign a legally binding agreement because they are unconscious or their mental state is such that they would be unable to comprehend the obligations they are committing themselves to
obtain written approval from Consular Operations to expend funds
enter details in SAP following instructions provided by cable from Consular Operations.
Consular Operations seeks approval in writing from Assistant Secretary Consular Operations Branch for the expenditure, in accordance with the pro forma minute in Appendix 20A.
Post are advised of approval by cable in the following terms:
Assistant Secretary Consular Operations Branch (name) approves expenditure of up to (local currency amount) to fund medical repatriation/repatriation/pauper’s funeral. Internal Order No (in range 230000 to 230098 as applicable to post) TEL – Post Name GL Code 21000 Consular Emergency Services.
Before committing funds for repatriation of a minor the post is, in the first instance, to follow the procedures in Chapter 15. If a parent, guardian or other person cannot be found to sign a loan, Consular Operations must seek approval in writing from Assistant Secretary Consular Operations Branch for the expenditure, in accordance with Appendix 20A.Before committing funds for a pauper’s funeral, the post is to:
obtain advice, preferably in writing, from local authorities that they do not provide the service for foreigners
obtain an itemised quote for a pauper’s funeral
obtain written approval from Consular Operations to expend funds
enter details in SAP following instructions provided by cable from Consular Operations Branch.
Consular Operations seeks approval in writing from Assistant Secretary Consular Operations for the expenditure on a pauper’s funeral in accordance with Appendix 20A. The post is advised of approval by cable.