An article by Nora Fakim in the Guardian newspaper a few days back carried an article as ‘Why Africans in the UK pay so much to send relatives’ bodies home’ – “home” defined as being in a given country on the African continent.
This article struck a chord primarily because I happen to be of African ancestry/origin and have experienced some of what was raised in the article. I also believe I stand to experience more if not similar occurrences of these in the coming future of my residence outside of Africa. After witnessing the often distressing scenarios where relatives back home have sold off ancestral burial grounds or constantly make financial demands towards various funeral rites, most persons I’ve come across have all but resigned themselves to being cremated or buried here in the UK.
My first experience of having to deal with returning a deceased relative back home was in 2008. My paternal aunt and adoptive mother had passed away after years of residing out of Uganda for over 30years. Without a written Will stipulating what she wanted, it fell on me and my siblings in the UK to ascertain from her religious affiliates what she would have wanted done pertaining to her burial, alongside that of our elders and her living siblings back in Uganda. Her religious affiliates were very clear, she didn’t mind her body being cremated and ashes scattered in a chosen garden or her remains returned to her ancestral home.
We opted to go with the latter given the insistence of our father, who was the brother to the deceased. However in so doing, the financial aspect of organising for all this fell upon us here in the UK. Fortunately, my adoptive mother had life insurance and honest religious affiliates in the likes who assisted us in overseeing all that was necessary to get her remains returned to Uganda without the need to seek or mobilise fundraising requests from the Ugandan community in the diaspora etc.
The one aspect I find contradictory to the argument for returning our deceased to the African continent irrespective of whichever genesis of reasoning comes down to economics which more often than not, falls on those in the diaspora to fund-raise. Namely, the cost of returning the remains of the deceased, the burial costs and the maintenance of the grave. Most often, all this is expected to be undertaken by the person(s) in the diaspora.
There are factors that need to be weighed by all. Those in the diaspora need to hold frank conversations amongst themselves, companions, relatives or families; over what they would want to see take place in case of their deaths. Persons need to be proactive in setting a plan of action that is transparent instead of opting to push their Will in a shroud of secrecy or cultural/religious dogma. There’s often a taboo about discussing their Will I’ve found when the subject has been raised.
There is no one rule fits all. Options need to be explored by diasporans especially if they’ve been in paid legal employ during their years of residence abroad.
The options to look into; 1.) Life insurance: – that can help towards returning a deceased back home and which persons can pay a regular contribution towards in the course of their residence in the UK.
2.) The cost of a plot of burial in the UK which can range from anything like £3,000. Such information is readily accessible with such co-operatives like http://www.co-operativefuneralcare.co.uk/arranging-a-funeral/immediate-concerns/paying-for-a-funeral/?gclid=Cj0KEQiAno60BRDt89rAh7qt-4wBEiQASes2tRl6uJDOtL8nP9JEPF45mabvc29O4Hd-dXhhmVcv-cgaAgPj8P8HAQ