Repatriation returning someone home.
Families face a very difficult process when someone dies away from home, whether overseas or interstate. Not only are they faced with the tragic loss of someone important to them, they need to arrange a funeral away from their familiar surroundings. They also face the need to transport their loved one home. Our company liaises and partners with many travel assistance organisations that specialise in the protection and care of the traveller from all over the world. This can be a very daunting task, dealing with travel insurers, consulates and airlines, not to mention the intricate legal requirements surrounding the process and the fact that on many occasions there are language barriers. Queensland and Australia are among the world’s premier tourist destinations. The beauty of our coastline and climate mean that people are eager to travel, study, work and retire here. Integrity Funerals International has a special dedication to, and understanding of the important and sometimes complicated task of the careful shipment of human remains to and from countries all over the world as well as different States within Australia. Rowan Steer, one of the owners, and his team of specialists have assisted many families during all his nearly 30 years experience in returning loved ones home to most countries of the world. We have chosen to specialise in this area because we believe we have a unique level of experience and understanding of the processes involved.
What happens first?
As when any person dies, the first priority is to transfer the person to a place of safety and care until the appropriate relatives can be advised, and their specific instructions obtained. Once these instructions are clear (and they may come from the family, the travel insurer, or possibly even the consulate of their country of origin) the following information will first be required by Integrity Funerals International.
The full name of the Deceased;
Where they are located;
Passport number and Nationality;
Full name, relationship of next of kin or person responsible for arranging the transfer;
Telephone and email contact and address;
Travel Insurers name and Policy number and contact details;
Whether Cremation or Burial is intended on arrival home
Registration of the person’s death prior to departure.
Regardless of the country of destination or origin a person’s death must be registered prior to departure in the normal manner with the local registrar of birth, deaths and marriages. The local registrar once advised of the death should also receive notification of the intention to transfer the person from Australia. In most instances three certified death certificates are required for the repatriation of someone who has died internationally and they are treated in the following manner.
• One is for the airline and usually accompanies the airline waybill. This certificate is often kept by the airline for their records.
• The second is for the funeral director at the destination to perform the funeral at the cemetery or crematorium.
• The last is for the family’s legal purposes in relation to finalising estates.
It should be noted that for some countries, a certified Australian death certificate may need to have a consular endorsed seal or have a complete translation to become legal tender in the country of destination. It should also be noted that some countries require an international notary republic to witness endorse and sign a photocopy of the certified death certificate for it to become legal tender in the country of destination. Integrity International can advise you of which countries have prerequisites for.
The following details are required to register a person’s death in Australia. Refer to page 24 in the Personal Choices book to complete these details
• Full name of deceased
• Date of birth and date of death
• Place of death
• Residential address
• Was the deceased retired?
• If born overseas, date and/or year of arrival in Australia
• Marital status
• Place of marriage
• Age at marriage
• Christian names of spouse
• Surname of spouse
• Fathers full name
• Father’s occupation
• Mother’s Christian name
• Mother’s maiden name
• Mother’s occupation
• Children’s Christian names and dates of birth
• Name and address of cemetery or crematorium
What are a Consignee and an OK to Forward?
In order to facilitate booking and safe arrival of the deceased at their destination, Integrity International Funerals will need details of the consignee, which is the term for the person who is responsible for taking the person into their care on arrival in the country of destination. As the consignor, Integrity Funerals International must have the name, address and international phone and fax numbers of the consignee or funeral director at the receiving end before a booking can be made for air carriage. This is for one reason only and that is the precious nature of the cargo, which needs specific care and attention at arrival at its destination. The consignee is generally a funeral director but on some occasions can be the family of the deceased. It is the consignee’s responsibility to commit to be awaiting the arrival of the deceased at the of the airport of destination at the time of arrival to take into his/her care the deceased once customs and quarantine have been checked and cleared by the appropriate documentation. The consignee must also have an adequate vehicle to transfer the deceased to the funeral facility on arrival. The consignee may also be required to pay any import tax or custom terrif on arrival to the country of designation.
OK to Forward.
The process of what’s called an OK to Forward is built on the above criteria to send what is called in air cargo terms an N.H.S or natural human specimen the consignor will contact the airline generally via a professional freight forwarder to create the freight or flight booking. At this point a waybill is created which is the international method for the systematic direction and tracking of all items of freight.
The departing airline will contact the airline at the arrival destination to seek the commitment of the consignee or receiving funeral director to agree to the above criteria as the consignee. The process is then reversed back to consignor or sending funeral director and the consignment is then endorsed as OK to Forward and the booking is confirmed. This can often take over a 24-hour period because of time and dateline differences.
Instruction on a number of issues must be sought from the Consul of the particular country – Including:
Their specific requirements for sealing and shipment to their country.
Some countries require a permit for the deceased to travel (not unlike a visa); and assistance with translating all relevant documents so that the receiving funeral director and local authorities can understand the documentation when the deceased arrives home.Please refer to the Australian Embassies, high commissions, consulates, multilateral missions and representative offices web site for more information.
Most travel insurance policies contain a specific clause stating that in the event of someone dying abroad the insurance company will cover the cost of returning their body home, or the cremation of the person who has died abroad. Let us help you in the following pages gain an understanding of the process.
Care and preservation of the deceased.
The first rule of air travel is that the deceased must be embalmed. This preservative treatment of the deceased is designed to alleviate the need to keep them in a cooled environment. This procedure preserves and improves the condition of the deceased until they arrive home. It also ensures the safety of the staff that handle the casket at various stages of the journey. Unless there is a significant religious objection this is normally a mandatory requirement.
Securing and sealing the casket.
- On most occasions and to most countries of the world, the deceased person must be placed in either a heat sealed polythene body bag or an inner metal zinc container within the coffin. A more modern approach is a new material called bio-seal which is a mixture of both, best described as a metal body bag. Once sealed in the manner described the person who has died is placed in the coffin/casket of choice, which is then wrapped for its protection and safety in an outercardboard coffin, which is then wrapped in an outer material called sisal craft which is a waterproof tar paper. This is to keep the Coffin protected and dry during transit so it may be used for the funeral at the country of destination. During air carriage the casket must be identified clearly with the name of the consignee and the destination, and the deceased’s name. See country specific general information for for importation of human remains around the world on our website for specific regulations required for all countries of the world.
Can you travel with a loved one?
The staff of Integrity Funerals International realise that on most occasions it is the desire of the family to travel with their loved one. On every occasion we will seek to book the family on the same flight home as the person who has died.
At the very least, we do our best to book the family together on the flight home so they have the comfort of each other’s support. This is not always easy at short notice. We offer you our every effort, using our contacts in the travel industry, towards achieving this.
What happens if someone dies overseas and needs to be returned to Australia?
This can be a very upsetting time as most families will receive a notification at their home by the local police. This initial call is often the first news of their loved one’s death and you are not sure where your loved one is, what has happened and there are many calls to advise immediate relatives and friends. In the first instance contacting Integrity Funerals International is a good idea as we have networks, partnerships and friends in business all over the world that can assist with practical assistance and advice. It is also good practice to involve funeral directors around the world that have accredited membership of funeral associations of the country involved as there are then assurances that good standards and professionalism will be adhered to because of their membership requirements. Apart from Integrity Funerals International the Australian Government has the Department of Foreign Affairs and trade Known as DFAT this is our government’s help to the traveller abroad not just in the matter of someone’s death abroad, but in all matters to assist the traveller. For the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.