Substantial expenses and complications for deceased body to be returned from abroad

A passionate appeal over the last few days by a daughter to bring back the body of her father who died while on holiday in Croatia, has managed to raise the sum of €4,000 needed for the body to be brought back to Malta to be buried in the presence of his family and friends.

This case has highlighted the headaches which relatives go through in such circumstances because of the enormous expenses and the arrangements which have to be made.

The death of a person outside the country not only leads to sorrow and heartbreak for the family, but also means that they will have to go through considerable red tape for the body to be returned to Malta.

According to the National Death Register kept by the DOI on Health and Research, in the last five years there were 54 Maltese men and women who died outside the country.

More than half of them were not not overseas for medical treatment, but had died suddenly, in most of the cases while on holiday.

This newsroom spoke to two undertakers who explained the arrangements which need to be made for a body to be brought back for burial.

“We contact the undertaker overseas and tell him to send us all the necessary documents so that the body can enter Malta, such as the death certificate and the embalming and no disease certificates.  Then they inform us on which flight the body will be sent”, explained Lino Briffa.

The body is brought back to Malta in a coffin covered with zinc, and is carried with the merchandise in the hold of the plane.

“It is considered as cargo and is covered with a canvas so that people do not see it while they are on the plane to avoid any kind of panic being created. It would be like unrecognisable merchandise or in a wooden box, while the zinc is used to prevent disease. We then collect the body from the cargo section at the old airport”, said Louis Borg.

The newsroom is informed that the expenses to bring back a body to Malta vary according to the country it is coming from.  However, the expenses are considerable and are always more than €1,000 and generally run into the thousands. The total is worked out according to the weight of the coffin, including the cost of the zinc and the price of the flight to Malta.

In some cases, the expenses may be covered by travel insurance.

“It is important that when one’s relatives travel, they should take out good insurance which protects them against any accident which might happen, or even in case of death,” said Lino Briffa.

Every body which is brought into Malta from abroad is inspected by the inspectors from the sanitation department.  As soon as the body arrives it is taken to the mortuary at Mater Dei, before the burial can take place.