Advice on Returning an Irish Person's Remains
To Ireland for Burial or Cremation
Edited by Brits in Crete team for the region of Greece, including Crete and Cyprus
(but applies equally to other Irish Ex-Pats in other places abroad)
Introduction/Basic Information on Formalities
What happens when abroad if a friend or relative who you accompany suddenly dies and they are an Irish citizen. What do you have to do? It is an awesome task for many, unprepared and at an emotional time. The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin has drawn up a basic guide as to the procedures that need to be followed which Brits in Crete has tailored to suit the circumstances in Greece (much applies to Cyprus as well). Greece and Greek Cyprus are part of the EU, that means member states share generally the same rules. That fact helps simplify procedures that are very strict regarding the transportation of corpses across national borders. The basic information here can generally be applied to other places in the world for the procedures to be followed in the Irish context. Whether as an Irish Ex-pat in Crete or visitor, the same information on this page applies.
When someone dies abroad, particularly if the death was sudden or unexpected, it is often difficult to know how to deal with the practical matters you need to address. Every country has its own rules about the formalities to be followed when someone dies. The purpose of the following information guides you on how to repatriate and bring a body back to Ireland for burial or cremation. Be aware that to bring human remains back to the Republic of Ireland from abroad can be a costly and complicated process. You may therefore wish to consider having the body cremated abroad and having the ashes returned to Ireland (although Greece only enacted Cremation legislation in 2008 and this may not be possible at the time you read this) .
How to Notify the Irish Authorities that an Irish citizen has died abroad?
If the death of an Irish citizen is notified to the Irish embassy or consulate abroad (click here for contact details of the Irish consulate in Heraklion and Irish Embassy in Athens), the Garda Sióchána in Ireland are asked to notify any family/next-of kin in Ireland. The embassy/consulate can also help communicate with the police or other authorities abroad.
If you are in Ireland and have been notified of the death of an Irish citizen abroad by a tour operator or by someone else, then you should contact in Dublin, the respective Irish embassy/consulate for that country for advice. In the case of Greece, contacts details are available for the Greek Embassy in Dublin or for Cyprus - the Greek Cypriot Embassy in Dublin are to be found on our Irish Contacts page.
How Do I Arrange Formal Identification of the Mortal Remains of an Irish Person?
Before any arrangements can be made to return a body of an Irish citizen to Ireland, it will be necessary to have the remains formally identified. That is, it is necessary to have the identity of the deceased officially confirmed in accordance with the laws in Greece or Cyprus. The rules on who may formally identify a deceased person can vary, but usually identification of the deceased may be carried out by a travelling companion, business colleague, or if an Irish Ex-pat another Irish fellow neighbour if a next of kin is not available. Depending on local laws and rules however, it may be necessary for a family member to travel to the place where the deceased is, to confirm the identity. The Irish Embassies in Athens and Nicosia or the Irish Honorary Consulates in Heraklion, Corfu, Rhodes and Thessaloniki can give best advice, or so can an appointed local Greek Funeral Director. The latter would normally handle this with the local office of registration of deaths. The Irish consular staff in Greece/Cyprus may assist in obtaining documents such as a death certificate and medical reports. But the Irish Government clearly states it cannot help pay for the cost of relatives travelling to where a death occurs. Neither can the embassy pay the costs of repatriation of bodies back to Ireland except in exceptional circumstances.
How Do I Appoint a Funeral Director?
In order to obtain the release of the body for repatriation from the authorities in Greece/Cyprus (or another country where the person died), you should appoint a funeral director/undertaker. A funeral director is someone whose business is to prepare the dead for burial and to arrange and manage funerals. Services of funeral directors are not free so you should check fees and costs associated prior to engaging those services. The Diplomatic staff can recommend a local undertaker who has handled deceased foreign citizens previously and conversant with travel arrangements and legal requirements. Again, If the death occurred on a package holiday, the tour operator should be able to help with arrangements.
If you live in Ireland and contact a funeral director locally, your funeral director in Ireland can find a suitable funeral director in this case, Greece of Cyprus, and make the appropriate arrangements.
The local funeral director in Greece or elsewhere, can prepare the body for repatriation. The funeral director can also prepare the appropriate documentation and obtain the death certificate if possible. The local funeral director makes all the necessary flight arrangements.
Do I Require Clearance From Ireland's Authorities Before Repatriation of a Deceased Person to Ireland?
The repatriation of a body to Ireland must be notified to the coroner in Ireland for the district where the body is being flown to. If you have appointed a funeral director in Ireland, the funeral director will contact the appropriate coroner with the required documentation. Usually, bodies being repatriated to Ireland are flown to Dublin airport. In that case, it is the Dublin County Coroner who must be notified. The appropriate documentation in relation to the deceased has to be made available to the coroner for clearance by the coroner's office. The documentation required includes:
* Medical certificate giving cause of death
* Certification as to whether a post-mortem examination has been carried out or not
* Authorisation to remove the body from the other country
* Certificate to the effect that the body is not coming from an area of infectious disease
Where there are some concerns as to the circumstances of the death, the coroner may direct that an examination of the body be carried out.
When to Arrange the Funeral Back Home in Ireland?
Funeral arrangements in Ireland should not be confirmed until the coroner's office has cleared the documentation. International regulations (Article 3 of the League of Nations International Regulations concerning the conveyance of corpses, 1937 and the Council of Europe Agreement on the Transfer of Corpses 1973) require all coffins crossing international frontiers by air or sea to be metal (zinc or lead) lined and sealed. These coffins are therefore not suitable for cremation and either the lining has to be removed or another coffin provided if the body is to be cremated in Ireland.
Do I have to Register the Death Both in Ireland and Greece? (or another country if it applies)
If the death is registered say in Greece or Republic of Cyprus, it is not normally registered in Ireland. Where a system of registration does not exist in that country or where it is not possible to obtain copies of the relevant civil registration record (death certificate), you should contact the General Register Office in Ireland to see if the death can be registered in Ireland.
A death certificate is an important legal document, evidence of which is frequently required in Ireland in order to deal with the deceased's estate, access money, etc.
What if the Deceased Person is a Resident of Ireland but not a Citizen?
The advice in this document applies exclusively to rules governed by Irish Government Regulation on Human Remains repatriation for citizens of ÉIRE - the Republic of Ireland, and as applied to other EU Nationals with residence in the republic. Residents of Northern Ireland should refer to the UK regulations.
While Irish embassies provide consular services to Irish nationals abroad, this does not extend to non-EU nationals. Nationals of other countries should avail of consular services from their own countries' embassies and consulates.
Question: What is the Cost of Getting a Deceased Person Back to Ireland?
Answer: Repatriation of a deceased person to Ireland can be very expensive, depending on the distance to be travelled and other factors. The cost is in thousands of Euros. Check whether the person had travel insurance or private medical cover to help cover or defray the costs to be incurred. Financial assistance for the cost of repatriation of a dead body is not available from the Irish Embassy/Consulate. The Irish Association of Funeral Directors in Dublin is a helpful resource centre (see below).
Important Contacts in Ireland
Mespil Business Centre
Freephone: 1-800-927111 (local call rates in Ireland)
Death Registration in ÉIRE
Tel: +353 90 663 2900
Locall: 1 890 25 20 76
Fax: +353 90 663 2999
Web site : http://www.groireland.ie/
HelpDesk at Department of Foreign Affairs, Dublin
69-71 St. Stephens Green
Tel: +353 (0)1 4780822 or +353 (0)1 4780822
Web site: http://www.dfa.ie/home/index.aspx?id=301
A Brief Note on CREMATION IN GREECE. Cremation is not available up to now in Greece. This is primarily due to the Greek Orthodox religious beliefs. The Greek Government has been under pressure to meet EU requirements and this matter has been addressed. The first law was passed in 2006 but relgious objections stalled progress.
Update: January 31, 2011. The Cremation laws are now in place in Greece. But Cremation facilities are awaited especially in Crete. The law specifically states that the deceased must have stated they wish to be cremated. For further details, go to our Brits in Crete forum under the subject Cremation in Greece then return here.
Source of Information: The New Brits in Crete Team guided by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Dublin has re-worked the information for circumstances in Crete and Greece.
You can download to your desktop the PDF File of this page by clicking on: Advice on Bringing a Deceased Person's Body from Abroad to Ireland for Burial or Cremation. What to do in Greece and Ireland. "
More important reading on "Dying in Greece" can be found on our British ex-patriates Bereavement in Crete page, which goes into more detail on the Greek aspects of the procedures involved.