Off topic: Paperwork to take ashes from Spain to South Africa
Thread poster: Noni Gilbert

Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:12
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 17, 2010

Rather a sad topic I'm afraid, but I'm wondering if anyone has had the experience of taking ashes out of Spain and could advance me some information.

A friend died yesterday, a terminal illness. She was South African, but long term resident in Spain. She had already arranged for her cremation. Her brother made it over from South Africa just in time to be with her on her last day, but needs to return as soon as possible.

We are trying to find out what paperwork is going to be needed to accompany the ashes, and how long it may take to get that paperwork. Today being Sunday we can't advance on anything, but any information would be useful and very gratefully received.

Thank you.


PS As I pressed to post, I spotted that Off-Topic doesn't seem the right place for this topic, but I don't know where best to post. If a moderator wishes to move this post, please go ahead. Apologies and thanks.

[Edited at 2010-01-17 13:50 GMT]


Maria Baquero  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sorry for your loss Jan 17, 2010

The best thing to do it is to contact the South African embassy in Madrid.


Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:12
Spanish to English
+ ...
@Maria Jan 17, 2010

Yes of course, Maria - just that we are trying to anticipate things, and getting frustrated with it being a Sunday! Thanks for your help.


Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:12
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
It may not be that complicated Jan 18, 2010

I have no knowledge of specific document requirements for taking the remains to South Africa, but I found some general info on international transportation of human ashes.

At International SOS, senior operations manager Veenu Karir points out that the international transportation of ashes is a much less complicated affair than moving a body. 'There are various methods for returning the ashes, which include air freight, courier service or even as hand luggage on the aircraft with an accompanying person as long as all the documentation is in order.'

Relevant documentation includes death, cremation and sealing certificates, according to Rowland. 'While this documentation may not be legally required, it provides a safeguard in case an individual is stopped at customs under suspicion of drug trafficking.'

As to more practical aspects of taking the ashes (sorry, it is not a pleasant read):
Airline regulations require the container to be made of a material that is not opaque under X-ray screening. Funeral homes can provide such travel containers, made of thinner plastic or wood. The best thing is probably to take the ashes as carry-on, and at the security checkpoint clearly identify the container as human ashes. They will just run it through the X-ray, and if it passes, you can take it on board. I don't know how they do it in Spain, but if the body is cremated in the US, there is a small metal disk to identify the remains, and it is inside the sealed urn. It will show up on the screening machine, that's why it is important to tell the security people what it is. Some airlines allow ashes in checked-in luggage, but then you are running the risk of leak or even loss, if the luggage is lost.

More details about these transportation requirements:

Depending on how many airports are en-route, the security screening procedure may be repeated multiple times. I assume the documents should be in a language (or languages) understood by security personnel at those airports, and by customs agents in the destination country.


[Edited at 2010-01-18 04:44 GMT]


Izabela Szczypka  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:12
English to Polish
+ ...
AFAIK... Jan 18, 2010

I have a friend here in Poland who is a funeral home director and constantly deals with bringing home human remains from abroad. It's part and parcel of his job to deal with all the details, including the paperwork involved on both sides, so I suppose it's normal for the job to be done in the receiving country.
Why not hire his peer in SA and let him take care of everything?


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