How to Repatriate Remains to Ireland

The sudden death of a loved one is one of the most terrible tragedies we may face in life. If it happens while you are abroad, the distress and heartbreak is further compounded by the stress of being away from home. You may be enjoying a deserved break away one minute and plunged into grief the next.

No support network and a language barrier

Not only do you have an awful loss to cope with but you are away from your support network of family and friends and the familiarity of home. Depending on where you are in the world there may be a language barrier and very different processes when it comes to treating an unexpected death. Fortunately there is help to repatriate the remains of your loved one back to Ireland.

Irish deaths abroad

Recent statistics from the Department of Foreign Affairs show about 5 Irish people a week passed away while they were abroad last year, for a variety of reasons.

Here are the steps to take if a loved one has died abroad:

  1. If your loved one does not die in hospital, it is important to report the situation to local emergency services, either a doctor or the police.                                                                                                                             
  2.  From there contact close family in Ireland if you can.                                                                                                    
  3.  If you have travel insurance, it is essential to contact your insurer immediately. Most travel insurance policies will provide you with financial assistance in the event of a death abroad. Be sure to review the terms and conditions of your policy to assess your level of cover provided as well as any actions required of you in order to submit a claim.  Travel insurance policies often will organise the repatriation of human remains and assist with the completion of required import/export documents. However, all costs incurred must be authorised in advance by the insurer.                                                                                                                                                                                                       
  4.  Contact the Irish embassy or consulate in the country you are in. The Irish diplomats at the embassy will understand the procedure for dealing with a death in that country. They can help you to:
    • Deal with local authorites to register what has happened and get a death certificate or other legal documents
    • Meet with the police or other authorities if the death has been as a result of an accident or a crime.
    • Get in touch with a local undertaker who can contact an undertaker in Ireland to bring your loved ones remains back home, should that be your wish.
    • Inform family or friends in Ireland of the person dying abroad through an Garda Síochána.
    • As mentioned earlier, if you have a travel insurance policy contact your insurer as soon as possible so any costs can be authorised in advance to ensure coverage.                                                                                   
  5. Before arrangements can be made to return your loved one’s remains to Ireland they must be formally identified. This can be done by yourself, if you are with them. If they are abroad alone or on business a colleague or friend may be able to identify them. In some countries the person’s next of kin may have to travel to identify them. It is best to check this with the Irish embassy.                                                                                                                                
  6. Once the body has been identified:
    • If you have travel insuranc and cover dependent, your insurer will arrange a local funeral director to organise the repatriation of the remains to Ireland.
    •  If you are without cover, you should chose a funeral director in that country to help arrange their repatriation to Ireland. Please note neither the funeral director nor repatriation are free. Both can be very expensive so consider this if you don’t  have sufficient travel insurance.                                                                                                                                                                   
  7. The local funeral director will be able to arrange the documentation needed to get a death certificate in the country you are in with an Irish undertaker. It is important not to confirm funeral arrangements in Ireland until all the processes have been completed. Timelines will vary depending on circumstances, it is likely to take a minimum of 7-10 days to repatriate your loved ones remains.                                                                                                                                                                          
  8. Before a body can be returned to Ireland, the coroner in your local area must be informed. Generally they will require the following documents before the remains can be returned to Ireland:
    • A medical certificate that gives the reason the person died
    • A certificate to show if a post-mortem examination happened
    • Permission for the body to be removed from the country the remains are located in
    • Certificate to say the body is not coming from an area of infectious disease                                                                                                              
  9. Once all of the above has happened you should be in a position to plan your return to Ireland for the funeral.                                        

Losing a loved one in tragic circumstances while away from home is devastating. Make sure you have the travel insurance you need to ensure you are not left with a financial burden on top of the grief.


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