Understanding the Role of Repatriation

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Clive Pearson, Repatriation Manager, shares his experience of working in repatriation.


What’s your role in Kenyon?

In my role at Kenyon, I have a diverse range of responsibilities. Firstly, I serve as a first responder for disasters, where I am trained as a Special Assistance Team (SAT) Member. This entails setting up Family Assistance Centres (FAC) to provide support to affected individuals and also offering the support they require at the time of deployment. Additionally, I also hold the position of Repatriation Manager, where my duties involve organising and managing mortuaries, ensuring the proper care of the deceased, and facilitating their safe journey back home.

These various responsibilities often overlap when we are activated by our clients. In some such cases, I not only take care of the deceased but also provide support to their relatives during this difficult time.


What is the process of repatriation?

The process of repatriation can vary depending on the complexities of the case. Our main aim is to carry out the wishes of the client/relatives as quickly as possible so that their loved one can be laid to rest.

Once the deceased has been identified, I handle all the necessary paperwork for repatriation. This includes not only the paperwork for the country from which the repatriation is taking place but also for the country of arrival. The requirements for this paperwork can vary depending on the countries involved, often requiring coordination with the local embassy of the deceased's home country. Additionally, I arrange for embalming and ensure that a suitable coffin for transportation is chosen. If a flight is involved, I ensure that all airline requirements are met.

Throughout this process, I am mindful of any religious customs and practices that the deceased or their family may require. If the family is working with a funeral director, I collaborate closely with them to ensure that the funeral can take place as soon as possible. However, in some cases, the family may handle all the arrangements themselves, especially when arriving in certain countries.

Depending on the destination, different modes of transportation may be needed. This may involve booking flights not only for the deceased but also for their relatives who will be traveling on the same flights. In most cases, I personally accompany the deceased to ensure that they are on the correct flights. Upon arrival, I handle all customs clearance procedures and then accompany the deceased on their onward journey, which could sometimes be a journey of six hours or more by road, depending on the country.

Throughout the entire process, I make sure to keep the family and client informed every step of the way.


Have you had any unique experiences that you'd like to share?

I've had the opportunity to handle numerous repatriations with Kenyon, working closely with foreign offices, airlines, and large corporate companies worldwide. One of the most recent repatriations I coordinated was for an individual who unfortunately passed away while working on a ship. This involved travelling to the country where the ship was docked, meeting a family member of the deceased, and making all the necessary arrangements for the repatriation process.

Due to religious and cultural considerations, it was crucial to ensure that everything was meticulously organised, including customs clearance upon arrival in the home country, to facilitate a proper funeral ceremony. Upon reaching the deceased's home country, a six-hour road journey awaited us, with a strict deadline of 7am to arrive. We had wisely accounted for extra time to address any potential obstacles, which proved beneficial as we navigated through dense fog during a night-time drive, with visibility limited to just a few metres ahead.

As the deceased belonged to the Hindu faith, the entire village came together to pay their respects at the family's home. This significant part of the funeral process lasted for several hours before the cremation took place on a pyre.

The families of the deceased are always grateful for the exceptional dedication of Kenyon in fulfilling their wishes and providing compassionate care to both the family and the departed.


What qualities are necessary for performing your job?

There are numerous qualities essential for undertaking the responsibilities of repatriation:

Empathy: It is crucial to be compassionate and understanding as you work closely with grieving families during a challenging period. Compassion is vital in providing support and solace to those who have lost their loved ones.

Organisation: You are accountable for coordinating all aspects of repatriation, including paperwork, scheduling, and logistics. Strong organisational skills are necessary to ensure that all necessary arrangements are efficiently made.

Attention to Detail: Paying close attention to detail is essential to guarantee the accuracy and compliance of all arrangements and paperwork with the legal requirements of the countries involved. Meticulousness in your work is necessary to avoid any errors or oversights.

Communication Skills: Effective communication is crucial not only in dealing with the wishes and needs of grieving families, but also in conveying information clearly and sensitively. It is also important for interacting with various government departments and organisations worldwide. Communication should be carried out with compassion and professionalism.

Professionalism: Conducting oneself in a professional manner at all times is a must. Demonstrating respect, sensitivity, and discretion when dealing with grieving families and handling sensitive situations is essential.

Problem-Solving Abilities: Unexpected challenges or last-minute changes often arise during the planning process. Being resourceful and quick-thinking is necessary to resolve any issues and ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Knowledge of Repatriation Practices and Regulations: A thorough understanding of repatriation practices, funeral traditions of all faiths, and legal regulations is required. This knowledge enables you to guide families and clients through the decision-making process and ensure compliance with all necessary requirements.

Emotional Resilience: Dealing with death and grief, especially after a disaster, can be emotionally challenging. Having the ability to cope with the emotional demands of the job and maintain personal well-being is crucial. At Kenyon, you are always part of a supportive team, with someone available to talk to if you are struggling.

Overall, to carry out repatriations worldwide, a combination of empathy, organisational skills, attention to detail, effective communication, professionalism, problem-solving abilities, knowledge of funeral practices, and emotional resilience is necessary to provide the best support to grieving families and clients.

If you'd like to learn more about repatriation and the other disaster recovery services we offer visit: Disaster Recovery Services or please get in contact us at kenyon@kenyoninternational.com.