The death of a loved one is a devastating experience, especially when this happens in a foreign land. You may not be aware of the protocol to follow in order to repatriate the remains back home before engaging in the necessary funeral services.
Fortunately, the government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), steps in and notifies you – the next of kin – of the tragedy and can help you to get over some of these hurdles. However, you will need to handle certain processes such as making the funeral arrangements. Below is a guide of what you should do in general when a loved one passes away while overseas.
Confirm details of travel insurance
Upon receiving the official notification of death from the consular office, the next of kin is required to confirm that the deceased had purchased a travel insurance policy that covers death and repatriation of remains. Thereafter, you can contact the insurance company immediately.
This is to facilitate for the payment of any bills the deceased may have incurred, perhaps while in hospital, repatriation expenses or even funeral costs. If the insurance limit cannot cover the costs, the MFA can help to remit money from relatives and friends in order to meet any costs incurred.
Appoint a rep to travel and identify the body
Next, you should appoint a family member to travel, identify the body and make arrangements to collect their personal items and liaise with the funeral director. This can be the deceased’s son/daughter, spouse or parent. The embassy or consulate should be informed of their personal details, as well as travel details and contact information. It is also necessary to bring valid documentation as proof of relationship to the deceased, such as a marriage certificate.
Make repatriation or disposition arrangements
Once the body has been identified and personal belongings are retrieved, you will have to decide whether to have the body repatriated to Singapore or cremated in the foreign country. For the former choice, it is advisable to appoint a funeral director in Singapore who is familiar with international repatriation procedures.
There are several documents which are necessary to accompany the casket when repatriating the body back to Singapore. This will help to facilitate clearance of the casket into the country. Some of the essential documents include death certificate, embalming certificate, and sealing certificate. You should also inform the embassy or consulate the flight departure details of the casket.
Together with a Letter of Authorisation, the documents will be faxed to the appointed funeral director to begin applying for an import permit from the National Environment Agency (NEA) in Singapore for the importation of the deceased’s body into Singapore.
If the death was not due to natural causes, you are required to request for an official police report from the host country as well as a medical report. The medical report is especially important if the deceased was suffering from an infectious disease such as HIV. If the deceased had such an infection, it is vital that you inform overseas and Singapore authorities of this so necessary precautions can be taken.