Fleur Willson, the recently-appointed Consular Regional Director for Europe South made her first visit to the Canaries last month. We took afternoon tea with Fleur and the consular team last month.
Welcome to Lanzarote, Fleur. What do you think?
I’m really impressed. My aunt’s a regular visitor here and has told me about it, but it’s more beautiful than I expected.
You cover a huge territory of 20 countries ranging from here to Turkey. What are your main priorities?
A lot of people don’t know what a diplomat does, but I’d simply say that when a crisis occurs, we’re there for them. That’s when we deal with people during what may be the toughest times of their lives. I’ve been deeply involved in crisis work during my career, working as Deputy Ambassador in Libya and earlier this year during the evacuation of Afghanistan.
What sort of crises might affect the Canaries?
Well, we’ve seen a volcanic eruption, although few British citizens have been affected. There were also the repatriation flights at the start of the lockdown, during which I worked arranging charters in London. The pandemic has been the longest, most complex we’ve ever dealt with. We’re trained to make sure everything is ready, to over-respond and then pare back.
Where are you based?
In Madrid, mainly because Spain is the busiest area due to the amount of British residents.
How do you work with the regional consular teams?
We’re constantly in touch, sharing information. We’ll carry on working with a variety of charities, and, following Brexit, we also need to dispel the sort of myths and rumours that circulate on social media. Reliable information is available on the Living In Spain page at gov.uk, and the Living In Spain Facebook page.
Thanks, Fleur, and all the best.
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