US, China head top 10 countries with Australian prisoners
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US, China head top 10 countries with Australian prisoners

AUSTRALIANS are continuing to get into trouble overseas, with the US and China among the likeliest places for Aussie travellers to be jailed.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has revealed the top 10 countries where Australians are being kept in local prisons.

About 1000 Australians are arrested overseas each year.

About 1000 Australians are arrested overseas each year.

Photo: Jamie Smetkowski

In spite of several high-profile cases in south-east Asia, Australians are also cooling their heels in significant numbers in jails in Europe, New Zealand and the Middle East. The nations with the highest number of Australians in jail are the US, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Thailand, South Korea, Britain and Lebanon.

About 1000 Australians are arrested overseas each year but the number of those serving jail terms has fallen this year.

Information provided to the Sunday Canberra Times by DFAT said about 200 Australians were in overseas prisons but it did not identify how many were held in each country, or which country had the highest number of jailed Australians.

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The total figure is down from the high of 2010-11, when the number reached the record level of 313 Australian citizens held in foreign jails.

''Australians make about 8.9 million short-term overseas visits worldwide, each year,'' a DFAT spokeswoman said. ''While Australians are in another country they are required to respect and abide by that country's laws, just as they are required to respect and abide by Australian laws when at home.''

The spokeswoman said crimes committed overseas would potentially attract longer sentences than in Australia and the penalties could appear harsh by Australian standards.

Nearly half of the Australians in foreign jails are there for drug-related matters.

DFAT'S Smart Traveller website says help is available for Australians in trouble overseas.

''The Australian government will do what it can to help prisoners and their families as much as possible within the local and international legal framework,'' it says.

However, it also warns that help can only go so far.

''There may be limitations to what can be done and you should have realistic expectations about this,'' the website says.

Julieanne Strachan is a reporter for The Sunday Canberra Times.