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Repatriation of Mortal Remains

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The Department, in collaboration with its Representatives abroad, provide logistical assistance and advice to the next of kin in the event of the death of a South African citizen abroad.

The Department will assist in the following:

  • obtaining a permit for importing mortal remains from the Department of Health
  • placing family members into contact with reputable undertakers, and
  • obtaining quotes for the transportation of the mortal remains and/or cremation and/or local burial, if so requested by the next of kin.
  • providing information on local conditions and procedures affecting the deceased.

Importing of mortal remains to South Africa

Strict laws and regulations govern the transportation of moral remains between countries. The requirements:

Non-infectious mortal remains:

  • The body must be embalmed. This must take place within 24 hours. Not all countries have embalming facilities;
  • The body must be sealed in an airtight container and placed in a sturdy non-transparent coffin;
  • The import permit must be obtained prior to transportation.

Infectious mortal remains:

  • The body must be placed in two a polythene bags;
  • The body must then be sealed in an airtight container and placed in a sturdy non-transparent coffin;
  • The coffin must stay sealed at all times;
  • Along with a together with the death certificate a written statement from the medical practitioner stating that the body will not constitute a danger to public health and that the body is screened off according to regulation o R2438 of 30 October 1987, paragraphs 9 and 10 must accompany the body at all times;
  • The import permit must be obtained prior to transportation. The South African Representative must provide the following documentation to the Department of Health before an import permit can be issued:
  • A letter containing:
    • name of the deceased,
    • date of death, country of death,
    • cause of death, place of burial,
    • telephone and area code.
  • Embalming certificate
  • Letter from attending pathologist or medical doctor to state that the deceased did not suffer from an infectious disease at the time of death; OR
  • If the deceased did suffer from an infectious disease, a letter from the medical practitioner indicating that the transportation will not constitute a danger to public health.
  • All documents not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation.

Only when all the requirements are met will the Department of Health issue an Import Permit.

In emergencies:

  • Correspond on behalf of South African citizens abroad with family and/or friends in South Africa;
  • Support in evacuation planning of South African citizens abroad in cases of political turmoil, natural or manmade disasters.
  • Provide non-financial assistance for repatriation and urgently needed medical or professional attention;
  • Liaise with the local authorities in the case of a missing persons and/or determine the whereabouts of South African citizens abroad;
  • Provide support services and advice in cases of hostage taking, kidnapping or abduction;
  • Support families under certain circumstances by facilitating the transfer of funds to family members in distress abroad.

Legal and Notary:

  • Facilitate the serving of legal summons on defendants abroad;
  • Convey requests for extradition, rogatory letters and evidence on commission between states;
  • Authenticate public documents for use between states;
  • Provide non-financial assistance to victims of crime;
  • In cases of abduction of South African children to foreign countries, provide guidance and support to the custodial parent/guardian, in collaboration with the Office of the Family Advocate where indicated;
  • Supply a list of local lawyers and/or detail of local Law Commissions;
  • Supply a list of local translators.

Services not rendered to South African citizens by the Consulate Office

  • Pay for cremations, burials or the repatriation of mortal remains to South Africa;
  • Secure a release from prison/detention;
  • Intervene in court and legal proceedings (in foreign countries);
  • Request local authorities to give preferential treatment to South Africans;
  • Investigate crimes or deaths;
  • Enforce a South African custody agreement abroad or compel a country to decide a custody case;
  • Pay hotel, legal, medical or any other bills;
  • Obtain accommodation, work or work permits;
  • Store personal effects or search for lost items;
  • Accept personal mail and parcels;
  • Formally assist dual nationals in the country of their second nationality.


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