Foreign Office to issue death certificates for tsunami missing

The Foreign Office has confirmed that it will issue death certificates for British nationals missing, presumed dead, in the Boxing Day tsunami disaster.

Normally, the Foreign Office would not issue death certificates without a body or a local death certificate, and families of missing persons usually have to wait seven years before a death certificate can be issued.

However, Minister Douglas Alexander said due to the "exceptional circumstances" of the disaster, the Foreign Office would issue death certificates for British nationals whose body had not been found, based on evidence provided by British police.

Mr Alexander said that there would need to be evidence, "beyond reasonable doubt", that the person travelled to the affected region; that the person was probably in an area affected by the tsunami at the time it struck; that there had been no 'reasonable evidence' of life since December 26 and that there was no reason for the person to want to disappear.

The number of British nationals currently missing and classified by the Foreign Office as 'highly likely' to be involved is 256, which includes the 53 people confirmed dead. The number of those who are 'possibly involved' is currently 346.

Mr Alexander also said that the Foreign Office and police are continuing to work with Thai authorities to ensure that British victims of the tsunami are identified and returned to the UK as quickly as possible. He said that it was a "difficult, painstaking and, therefore, a lengthy process, but crucial to ensuring that families receive certainty about their loved ones".

The Minister said that the decision to introduce the new process for the issue of death certificates was "sensible contingency planning" for circumstances that may occur in the future. He said that details of how families could request a death certificate would be announced in due course.


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