Advice to South African Citizens when their Next of Kin Dies Abroad
Many South Africans think that when a South African dies abroad, the SA Government will pay to bring back the body to South Africa. There is absolutely no chance of that happening. However, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) works with diplomatic or consular missions abroad. They provide logistical, but not financial, assistance to the next-of-kin. This help can be truly valuable.
● Providing information and procedures affecting the deceased. Remember that the manner and circumstances surrounding the death of someone abroad is important. It will affect how the local authorities respond to and handle the case.
● Obtaining a permit for importing mortal remains.
● Obtaining quotes for the transportation of the mortal remains as well as quotes for burial or cremation.
● Helping family members find a reputable undertaker in the country where the death took place.
It is important that the next of kin of the deceased contact the insurer if they know that the deceased had travel insurance as this will help with funding. The Births and Deaths Registration Act No. 51 of 1992 also requires that someone report a person’s death at the Department of Home Affairs.
Getting a death certificate is necessary as this must go to the Master of the High Court. Report the death of a South African citizen whilst overseas to the nearest South African embassy or consulate abroad. The country will then issue a death certificate and submit a certified copy to the South African embassy.
Next of Kin Dies Abroad – Infectious Diseases Pose Stricter Conditions
When a body gets back to South Africa, there are strict conditions for its transportation. For instance, with infectious mortal remains, the body goes into a couple of polythene bags before going into an airtight container and coffin. A statement has to accompany the body, declaring that it will not constitute a danger to public health.
Obtain an import permit prior to the transportation of the body. You will need the following documentation before you can get an import permit:
● A letter providing the name of the deceased, date of death, country- and cause of death and telephone number.
● A letter from the medical profession to the effect that the deceased didn’t suffer from an infectious disease at the time of death.
● Embalming certificate – reasons for not embalming must be stated.
● Documents not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation.
When everything fails, and there is no money to arrange a funeral and the next of kin cannot be traced, a pauper burial can be requested. When all is said and done, the location of the grave, whether the next of kin want to know or not, and if the body was not cremated, will be provided to the next of kin.
Assistance for South Africans Abroad
A South African dying abroad is no simple process. There is a lot of documentation required and many rules and regulations in place. Consular Services work in close collaboration with the Consular Sections of the South African Diplomatic Missions abroad, offering assistance to South Africans finding themselves in difficult circumstances.
Emergency Consular services are available 24/7 to provide specialised assistance even after hours and over weekends. For assistance when abroad you can always contact the Department, Chief Directorate, Consular Services.
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