The immediate challenges to any repatriation of mortal remains are usually twofold: the sensitive nature of the situation and the location of death. It is imperative that both points remain at the forefront of any repatriation process.
The Covid-19 pandemic has understandably affected businesses across the world, and the funeral industry has not been exempt. While this particular case did not involve a Covid-19- positive patient, it was nevertheless impacted by the pandemic itself.
Navigating red tape
We were asked to assist with the repatriation of a deceased who sadly passed away in Iraq, which, as far as locations go, is up there on the complication leaderboard. The family requested that his remains be repatriated to Macedonia.
In addition to the death certificate, we also had to obtain the authorisation of the local judge in order to proceed with the removal of the deceased and the repatriation itself. This permission could only be given if a formal request were submitted to a judge in Baghdad. The judge insisted that it be the family that provide the necessary request for authorisation, but in order to ensure that it was indeed adequate, it had to be issued via strictly legal channels – which meant involving multiple diplomatic offices in both Iraq and Bulgaria.
The immediate challenges to any repatriation of mortal remains are usually twofold: the sensitive nature of the situation and the location of death
In most cases, the majority of paperwork for a repatriation is processed within the country of death but, in this instance, we had to approach the Macedonian Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, to ask them to provide an import permit for the entry of the body into Macedonia.
We also had to ask the Macedonian Embassy to forward the family’s authorisation for release of the body to the Iraqi embassy in Bulgaria, who in turn had to send it to the Foreign Office in Baghdad so that the document could be collected by our agent. Considerable effort, persistence and numerous calls were necessary to ensure that the permit was issued. The situation became even more complicated as the Iraqi Embassy was operating under reduced working hours due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Covid-19 flight restrictions
Once our agent was able to collect the family’s authorisation from the Foreign Office in Baghdad, the judge then also granted his authorisation for our agent to proceed with the repatriation process. Due to the pandemic, flight availability was extremely limited, and this process was quite challenging in itself. A combination of a cargo and a scheduled flight was required to complete the repatriation. It is important to note that there was a concerted effort from all stakeholders coming together to ensure the repatriation was completed as quickly and as efficiently as possible.