Samoa Streamlines the Process for Bringing Home Deceased Citizens

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28 August 2019, Apia Samoa.  In response to continuous requests by Samoan citizens wishing to bring family members back home for final burial services, the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (MPMC) have launched a policy that aims to bring a more coordinated approach to the process and requirements.

Statistics from the past 5 years confirms that the total number of requests received and approved by the Ministry of Health is 200, or 40 on average per year, all from Samoan Citizens residing abroad.

Dubbed the Policy on Repatriation of Deceased Bodies, Human Bones and Cremains into Samoa, it provides a comprehensive outline of the procedural roles of the various government agencies involved.

“This Policy seeks to bring about a more comprehensive coordinated approach by mainstreaming key roles, functions and procedures of relevant government Agencies involved in the repatriation of human remains to Samoa” said CEO of MPMC Agafili Shem Leo .

“It aims to consolidate the process and procedures for the repatriation of deceased bodies, human remains such as bones and human cremated ashes into Samoa” he added.

Five government agencies are curreny involved in the process which will now be centralised within MPMC.

including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade through overseas mission offices, the Ministry of Agriculture for Quarantine Services and the Ministry of Revenue for Customs Services.

The administrative fee imposed through the new policy is $100 Samoan tala which a family member can pay to the MPMC in Samoa, or to an overseas mission office.

The policy has been drawn from existing relevant legislations and may form a basis for developing a legal framework in the future to bind the key procedures and processes involved.

The public can expect no more delays for bringing their loved ones home for final burial services, as the procedure is clearly set in the 12-step process outlined below.

i. The family of the deceased should contact family members in Samoa to liaise with the MPMC who will coordinate the approval process.

ii. The family of the deceased abroad is required to provide all relevant documents provided in part 2.0; (set of requirements)

iii. These documents should be sent to the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
(MPMC) and directed to the Chief Executive Officer; (refer to Contact List).
Alternatively these can be channeled through Mission Offices.

iv. Upon receipt by MPMC, these are then submitted to the relevant Agencies Ministry of Health, Customs and Quarantine for clearance;

v. The normal process to facilitate all the necessary paperwork by the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet will take 3-5 working days;

vi. Administrative fee of $100 will be charged before issuance of letter of approval;

vii. Administrative fee is payable here in Samoa to the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet or to the Missions abroad in local currency;

viii. A family member of the deceased in Samoa can uplift the approval letter to their family. Alternatively the MPMC can send it the corresponding Mission office for dispatching.

Arrival at Samoa’s regulated ports of entry:

ix. There will be representatives of Government Boarder Agencies at regulated ports performing their respective clearance procedures pertaining to the arrival of the deceased body;

x. Upon arrival, clearance will be carried out after clearing the normal operation of arrivals;

xi. The Airline is responsible for submitting an Airway Bill/Bill of Landing for Customs and Quarantine Clearance;

xii. Family member(s) accompanying the deceased will present the approval letter to the officials.”

The MPMC have also made the documentation requirements clear as part of the new process.

Documentation Requirements for Deceased Bodies:

i. Official Letter of Request by the Deceased Family to the CEO, MPMC. The letter should clearly state what the family wishes to repatriate into Samoa whether it be a deceased body, human remains, or ashes;

ii. Medical Cause of Death;

iii. Embalming Certificate from Mortuary or Funeral Parlor;

iv. Death Registry Certificate;

v. Coroner’s report

– predominantly cases that the cause of death is confirmed to be an infectious disease
– MOH to determine date/time of burial based on the Coroner’s report.

vi. Deceased family to declare within the Letter of Request if the deceased is accompanied by any natural or fresh flowers, tapa or fine mats and the casket is made of treated woods;
– for Quarantine clearance

vii. Identification: passport photo, or ID or National ID, or Birth Certificate.

Documentation requirements for Deceased Human Remains (bones):

i. The family or person(s) should submit a letter of request. The letter should clearly state the name of the deceased, date of burial, proposed date for disinterment and new place the human remains will be buried.
ii. The bones must be chemically sterilized by a registered funeral service provider before the human remains are hermetically sealed;
iii. The family or person(s) must obtain the report of the treatment process from the funeral services and attached with letter of request;
iv. The Principal Health Care Ways Officer under the Ministry of Health will then assess all requests before issuance of an approval.

For bringing into Samoa the ashes of cremation you only need the Cremation Certificate from  the mortuary or Funeral Parlor.

“Streamlining of processes aims to lessen the  burden for families at their time of loss, while still ensuring that the roles of the Ministry of Health on public health safety as well as Customs for border control are also upheld and not compromised,” said Agafili.