CASE STUDY: Repatriating mortal remains to Syria
Rowland Brothers International (RBI) describe how they managed to repatriate the coffin of a Syrian back home from the UK, despite numerous geopolitical hurdles.
The team at RBI is used to thinking outside the box, tackling new challenges and working together to find solutions in their work to get loved ones back to their families. One recent job which called on exactly these skills involved a repatriation of mortal remains from the UK to Syria – which continued to be subject to international sanctions due to the ongoing civil war.
To conduct the repatriation, we needed to obtain the necessary documentation and permits required. However, Syria does not have an embassy in London – the nearest one is in Paris, and our Overseas Funeral Directors in France were unable to assist with our request for help in completing documentation at the Syrian Embassy at short notice. Instead, the team member managing the case travelled from London to Paris via EuroStar train on his weekend off, to ensure that he could be at the Syrian Embassy first thing on Monday morning.
Another complexity was the lack of any direct flights from London to Syria. Consequently, arrangements were sought with our Overseas Funeral Director in Lebanon, who agreed to assist with collection of the coffin from Beirut airport. They would also assist in transporting the coffin by road to the Syrian border, where the familyappointed Syrian Funeral Directors would be able to meet and take charge of the coffin for the final journey.
Careful handling of documentation
As such, the necessary legalisation of documentation was required from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London. Transportation permits were also required from the Lebanese Embassy in London. Following completion of documentation at the Syrian Embassy in Paris, our team member immediately boarded the Eurostar and made his journey back to London. He was able to complete the legalisation process and present the documents to the Lebanon Embassy first thing on the Tuesday morning.
A last minute ‘curve ball’ was thrown by the Lebanese Embassy, which involved getting the coffin to London for sealing by the embassy, before it could then be returned to RBI for immediate transfer to London Heathrow Airport for a flight on Wednesday morning. This required the team member to coordinate with the rest of the RBI team back in the office, to assist in the preparation of paperwork required for the airlines, as well as UK export customs documentation. Fortunately, all necessary documentation was completed in time, and the coffin was delivered in time to the airport for repatriation to take place.
Through out the entire process, all relevant parties were kept updated, including the family. The flight was tracked, and final confirmation was received from Lebanon that the coffin had been handed over successfully at the border with Syria. Both our client and the family were extremely impressed and thankful for the dedication and effort involved in this repatriation, so that the deceased could be laid for final resting at home per family wishes.