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What to do if a friend or relative dies abroad

If someone close to you dies abroad, there is a lot to arrange. Staff at the embassy, consulate, or Ministry of Foreign Affairs can assist you.

What if a travelling companion dies abroad?
You’re on a journey, for business or pleasure, and your travelling companion dies. Contact the Dutch embassy or consulate, your travel company, or the local police. They will tell you what to do next.

If a travelling companion or colleague dies abroad, his or her death has to be registered with the local authorities, often at the town hall. If the deceased was travelling alone, the embassy will register the death. You will then receive an extract from the register of deaths.

Informing relatives in the Netherlands of the death
When an embassy or consulate learns of the death of a Dutch national in its host country, it will inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague. If the relatives have not already been informed of the death, the Ministry will ask the Dutch police to do so.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will do everything possible to ensure that the relatives are the first to be informed of the death. Unfortunately, the media sometimes report a death before the family can be informed.

The body
The next of kin decide what should happen to the body. They can choose to:

• bring the body back for a funeral in the Netherlands;
• have the body buried or cremated abroad.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will inform the embassy or consulate of what the next of kin want to be done with the body. The embassy or consulate will tell the next of kin whether their wishes are feasible. In some countries, for example, cremation is prohibited.

Burials and cremations abroad
If the relatives decide on a burial or cremation abroad, the embassy can provide a list of local undertakers and an indication of the costs.

If the deceased had no travel insurance and the relatives cannot afford to bring the body to the Netherlands, it will be buried or cremated abroad. This will be done in accordance with local custom. The local authorities will pay for the funeral. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will inform relatives about the date of the burial or cremation, the address of the cemetery and the number of the grave.

Bringing the body back to the Netherlands
If the relatives want a funeral in the Netherlands, they need to know whether the deceased was insured.

If the deceased was insured
If the deceased had travel insurance, the embassy will call the insurer’s emergency support centre, which will arrange for the body to be brought to the Netherlands. The insurer will pay the costs. The emergency support centre will make the appropriate arrangements with the Dutch embassy or consulate.

No travel insurance
If the deceased had no travel insurance, the next of kin will have to pay for the body to be brought to the Netherlands. The following arrangements have to be made:

• a local undertaker has to prepare the body for transport;
• the local undertaker has to issue a certificate that he has complied with the statutory regulations for transporting mortal remains;
• on the basis of this certificate, the local authorities will issue a laissez-passer;
• the local undertaker has to contact the airline and ensure that the body is taken to the airport;
• the next of kin in the Netherlands have to engage an undertaker to collect the body from the airport.

Embassy assistance
The staff of the embassy, consulate, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs will assist the next of kin as much as possible. They will keep in touch with the next of kin until the deceased has been brought back to the Netherlands or buried or cremated abroad. It can sometimes take a long time before the body is released. Local customs and language problems can also get in the way.

Accident or crime
If the death was caused by an accident or crime, or if there is any doubt about the cause of death, the embassy or consulate may ask the local authorities for copies of the medical, autopsy or police reports. This may incur costs for the relatives.

The embassy or consulate cannot itself investigate a possible crime, because it is obliged to adhere to local law and has no investigative powers.

Money matters
The embassy or consulate will not pay for a cremation or burial or the transport of the body to the Netherlands. But it can help by asking relatives in the Netherlands to transfer money.

Contact and questions
Did your travelling companion die on a visit to a foreign country?
Contact the Dutch embassy or consulate. If there is no Dutch embassy or consulate, you can contact another EU country’s embassy.

Did a relative die while abroad?
Phone the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: +31 (0) 70 348 4770.