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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 17:18 GMT
Death certificates for UK missing
Woman scans photos of people missing in Phuket
Some 256 Britons are presumed to have died in the tsunami
British nationals missing presumed dead after the Asian tsunami will have death certificates issued even if their bodies are not found.

Foreign Office minister Douglas Alexander said because of "exceptional circumstances" the normal seven-year wait for a certificate could be waived.

The move should allow many families to resolve the financial affairs of their missing relatives much sooner.

The number of Britons missing presumed dead is 203 and 53 confirmed dead.

A further 346 are categorised as missing, "possibly involved".

Life insurance

Normally, a death certificate cannot legally be issued in the absence of a body until seven years have elapsed.

Without a certificate, relatives may have problems resolving mortgages, selling property or inheriting assets.

But insurance firms say the absence of death certificates will not delay payments on life insurance policies belonging to people presumed killed in the tsunami.

Mr Alexander told journalists the government was "keen to address the concerns" of the families involved.

The particular problems individuals face are much too intense for that period of time [seven years] to elapse
Lord Falconer

But he warned that the process of issuing the certificates could take months.

Mr Alexander said four tests would have to be passed before a death certificate could be issued.

These are:

  • Evidence exists beyond reasonable doubt that the person did travel to the affected region.
  • That, on the balance of probability, they were in the region when the tsunami struck.
  • There has been no reasonable evidence they are alive since 26 December.
  • There is no evidence to suggest the person would want to disappear.

    UK police are currently in Thailand helping with the process of identifying the bodies.

    Only once these bodies have been identified will certificates be issued where a body has not been found.

    Earlier this week the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, told the BBC that the idea of waiting seven years was "unthinkable".

    "The particular problems individuals face are much too intense for that period of time to elapse," he told the World at One programme on Tuesday.

    Why the Foreign Office is issuing death certificates

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