What to do if a friend or relative dies abroad
If someone close to you dies abroad, there is a lot to arrange. Staff at the embassy, consulate, or Ministry of Foreign Affairs can assist you. If there is no Dutch embassy or consulate in the country in question, you can contact the embassy or consulate of another EU country. Many countries list their embassies or consulates on their foreign ministry's website.
On this page:
- What if a travelling companion dies abroad?
- Registering the death with the local authorities
- Informing relatives of the death
- The body
- Burial or cremation abroad
- Bringing the body back to the Netherlands
- If the deceased was not insured
- Assistance from an embassy or consulate
- Accident or crime
- Cost of transport, burial or cremation
What if a travelling companion dies abroad?
If your travelling companion dies abroad, contact the local Dutch embassy or consulate, or call the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on +31 (0)70 348 4770. If there is no Dutch embassy or consulate in the country in question, you can contact the embassy or consulate of another EU country. You can also contact your travel company or the local police.
Registering the death with the local authorities
If your travelling companion dies abroad, you must register their death with the local authorities. This is often done at the town hall. You will then receive a death certificate. You can also register a death at the following Dutch embassies:
The foreign death certificate is valid in the Netherlands, provided it has been legalised. If you wish, you can register a foreign death certificate with the Foreign Documents Department of the municipality of The Hague. Postal address: Dienst Publiekszaken, Afdeling Landelijke Taken, Postbus 12620, 2500 DL Den Haag.
To bring the body back to the Netherlands, you must apply for a laissez-passer. If the local authorities will not issue a laissez-passer, the Dutch embassy or consulate can mediate.
If a death occurs on board a Dutch sea-going vessel outside the Netherlands, the captain must draw up a temporary death certificate and send a copy to the Population Affairs (Burgerzaken) Department of the municipality of The Hague, which will draw up a definitive death certificate.
Informing relatives of the death
When an embassy or consulate learns of the death of a Dutch national in its host country, it informs the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague. If the relatives have not already been informed of the death, the Ministry will ask the Dutch police to do so.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will do everything possible to ensure that the relatives are the first to be informed of the death. Unfortunately, the media sometimes report a death before the family can be informed.
The relatives will decide what should happen to the body. They can choose to:
- bring the body back for a funeral in the Netherlands;
- have the body buried or cremated abroad.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will inform the embassy or consulate of the relatives' wishes. The embassy or consulate will tell the relatives whether their wishes can be carried out. In some countries, for example, cremation is prohibited.
Burial or cremation abroad
If the relatives decide on a burial or cremation abroad, the embassy can provide a list of local undertakers and an indication of the costs.
Bringing the body back to the Netherlands
If the relatives wish to hold a funeral in the Netherlands, they need to know whether the deceased was insured.
If the deceased was not insured
If the deceased had no travel insurance, the relatives will have to pay for the body to be brought to the Netherlands. The following steps are to be taken:
- a local undertaker prepares the body for transport;
- the local undertaker issues a certificate stating they have complied with the statutory regulations for transporting human remains;
- on the basis of this certificate, the local authorities will issue a laissez-passer;
- the local undertaker contacts the airline and ensures that the body is taken to the airport;
- the relatives in the Netherlands arrange for an undertaker to collect the body from the airport
If the deceased had no travel insurance and the relatives cannot afford to bring the body to the Netherlands, the body will be buried or cremated abroad. This will be done in accordance with local custom. The local authorities will pay for the funeral. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will inform relatives about the date of the burial or cremation, the address of the cemetery and the location of the grave or urn.
Assistance from an embassy or consulate
Staff from the embassy, consulate, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs will assist the relatives as much as possible. They will keep in touch with the relatives until the deceased has been brought back to the Netherlands or buried or cremated abroad. It can sometimes take a long time before the body is released. Local customs and language problems can also get in the way.
Accident or crime
If the death was the result of an accident or crime, or if there is any doubt about the cause of death, the embassy or consulate may ask the local authorities for copies of the medical, autopsy or police reports. This may entail costs for the relatives.
The embassy or consulate cannot investigate a possible crime itself because it must adhere to local law and has no investigative powers.
Cost of transport, burial or cremation
The embassy or consulate will not pay for a cremation or burial or the transport of the body to the Netherlands. But it can help by contacting relatives in the Netherlands so that they can transfer money