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New Law Library Report Addresses Repatriation of Immigration Detainees’ Remains

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In January 2023, there were 21,896 foreign nationals in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody (ICE). According to ICE, fatalities in its facilities happen, but “occur at a small fraction of the national average for detained populations in federal or state custody.” ICE protocols regulate procedures for notification, review and reporting of detainees’ death. It does not appear that there is currently any requirement on the part of the U.S. government to cover expenses of repatriation of detainees’ remains to their home countries.

A recent Law Library of Congress report examines the rules that apply to repatriation of immigration detainees’ remains in Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (UK). Relevant regulations in some of these countries include notification of the death of foreign detainees to family members and to foreign consulates, obligations of municipalities and regional administrations regarding burial of detainees dying within their boundaries, financial assistance for burial in the country where the death occurred, and procedures for repatriation.

Among the countries surveyed, only the UK was identified as having adopted specific orders authorizing state funding for covering costs associated with the repatriation of remains of foreign nationals who died in immigration detention.

In the absence of provisions such as those in the UK to cover repatriation expenses, the costs associated with repatriation in other jurisdictions are usually borne by the family of the foreign national or by the consulate. If repatriation does not take place, the remains of persons who die while in custody are buried or cremated in the countries where the death occurred.

The report, Repatriation of Immigration Detainees’ Remains, contains a summary and individual country surveys for all the jurisdictions surveyed on funding for repatriation as well as on other aspects of handling the death of detainees in immigration custody.

The report is part of the Legal Reports (Publications of the Law Library of Congress) collection which contains to date more than 3,000 reports, current and historical, authored by the Law Library of Congress specialists and analysts on a variety of legal topics.

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