One Finn dies abroad every day
Number of Finns meeting their end abroad is increasing
The number of Finns dying abroad increased significantly last year. According to the statistics gathered from the Finnish embassies and diplomatic missions abroad, the number of deaths was 370 in 2009, while in 2008, the figure was below 330.
It is believed that the growth in the number of deaths is attributable to the fact that more and more Finnish senior citizens live permanently abroad.
Last year, the largest number of deaths occurred in Spain.
The overall figure indicates an increase by nearly 20 per cent compared with 2007.
In other words, every day one Finnish life comes to an end in a foreign country.
”I believe that the growth in the number of deaths is attributable to the fact that more and more Finnish senior citizens live permanently abroad. I have not noticed any increase in accidental deaths”, estimates director Pasi Tuominen of the Unit for Consular Services at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
In 2009, the highest number of deaths, 92 cases, occurred in Spain.
The corresponding figure for Sweden was 71, Estonia 25, and Thailand 24.
The share of Spain is explained by the fact that a large number of tourists visit the country.
Moreover, many Finns live permanently in Spain, particularly on the Costa del Sol in the south of the country.
The number of such migrants who have escaped the Finnish winter is roughly 20,000.
”Increasing numbers of pensioners are moving to the Costa del Sol, which can be seen in the number of deaths. Unfortunately, the figure seems to grow every year”, says Consul Arja Vanhala from the Embassy of Finland in Madrid.
”However, even some younger Finns lose their lives in Spain. Quite often these deaths are explained by excessive use of alcohol”, reports Arja Vanhala.
Whatever the situation, a death often comes as a surprise to the deceased people’s families. Customs and practices relating to deaths are different in various countries.
The families may be helpless as to how they should act, Vanhala notes.
Dying abroad also starts up the wheels of bureaucracy.
When the Embassy of Finland is informed of a case of death, it will notify the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which in turn starts to look for the permanent place of residence of the deceased in Finland, whereupon it informs the local police of the matter. The local police department then contacts the family of the dead person.
If the cause of death is unclear, the police may ask for a coroner’s inquest. A total of 40 such inquests are conducted every year.
If needed, even an autopsy may be performed. However, a postmortem examination is often difficult to perform if too much time has passed since the death occurred, and the bodies may have been treated with some preservatives in order to prevent decomposition.
The family will decide where the deceased person will be buried and how.
Most of those who have died abroad are brought home to Finland.
Roughly half of them are carried in coffins while the other half have been cremated. Practical arrangements are usually taken care of by a local undertaker’s.
The costs for the home journey are usually covered by travel insurance. If no insurance exists, the costs will be paid by the closest relatives.
For example Finnair charges a freight rate of approximately EUR 1,000 for the delivery of a coffin from Spain to Finland.
An urn storing the ashes of a cremated person can be carried either as hand baggage or checked in. Official documents relating to the death must accompany the urn.
Some Finns are also buried in the country where they died.
”Nearly every time the reason is that the deceased person has had some relationship to the country, for example relatives”, Pasi Tuominen notes.
Previously in HS International Edition:
More and more Finns fall ill or die abroad (27.2.2009)
SUNDAY MORNING 1:40: At least nine Finnish tourists dead in Costa del Sol bus crash (18.4.2008)