Cremated ashes may be freely transported internationally.
A distinction must be made between the following categories with regard to the encoffining and the transport of non-cremated human remains to another country:
- Encoffining and transport within the Benelux;
- Encoffining and transport from or to one of the countries bound by the Strasbourg Agreement;
- Encoffining and transport to another country.
Encoffining and transport from or to one of the countries bound by the Strasbourg Agreement
The Agreement on the Transfer of Corpses of 26 October 1973, drawn up in Strasbourg, was approved by the Law of 20 August 1981 (Belgian Official Gazette of 29 October 1981, erratum in the Belgian Official Gazette of 21 August 1982).
To date, the following countries have ratified that Agreement, namely Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey.
Articles 6 and 7 of the Strasbourg Agreement stipulate the following with regard to coffins:
1. The coffin shall be impervious; in addition, the interior must contain an absorbent material. If the competent authorities of the State of departure consider it necessary the coffin must be provided with a purifying device to balance the internal and external pressure.
The coffin must consist of:
- either an outer coffin in wood with sides at least 20 mm thick and an inner coffin of zinc carefully soldered or of any other material which is self-destroying;
- or a single coffin in wood with sides at least 30 mm thick lined with a sheet of zinc or of any other material which is self-destroying.
2. If the cause of death is a contagious disease, the body itself shall be wrapped in a shroud soaked in an antiseptic solution.
3. Without prejudice to the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article, the coffin, if it is to be transferred by air, shall be provided with a purifying device or, failing this, present such guarantees of resistance as are recognised to be adequate by the competent authority of the State of departure.
Article 7. If the coffin is to be transported like an ordinary consignment, it must be packaged so that it no longer resembles a coffin, and it shall be indicated that it be handled with care.
In application of Article 3 of this Agreement, any corpse shall, during international transfer, be accompanied by a special document - "laissez-passer for a corpse" - issued by the competent authority of the State of departure. This document shall be sufficient to arrange aspects of the transport of corpses (Article 4).