Health scare in Turkey after Brit vacationers scatter ashes in Aegean Sea

  • The tourists brought the ashes to Turkey to scatter them at a favourite spot
  • Do you know the family? Contact [email protected]

British tourists triggered a health alert in Turkey after wading into the sea to scatter the ashes of a deceased relative and causing ‘panic’ among beachgoers.

Health authorities in Marmaris, on the southern Aegean Coast, began a hasty investigation and took water samples following backlash from concerned locals about Monday’s ceremony.

Swimmers warned yesterday that the spreading of ashes in popular waters near the beach could endanger health, prompting an urgent response from the regional District Health Directorate.

The group of tourists had reportedly travelled with the intent of sprinkling the ashes at the Uzunyalı beach, a favoured spot of a late family member who had lost his life at sea, in touching tribute.

Cremation is not legal in Turkey and restrictions are in place to limit bringing ashes into the country.

The family of a man who died at sea scatter the ashes of their late relative at Uzunyal¿ beach

The family of a man who died at sea scatter the ashes of their late relative at Uzunyalı beach

The restrictions on scattering ashes in Turkey have caused significant upset for travellers in the past.

British forum users have described the drawn-out process of working through Turkish and British bureaucracy to get permission to organise a send-off.

Robin, writing on the Sue Ryder bereavement support charity forum, said it took them nearly two years to get permission from all the relevant authorities to scatter their wife’s ashes.

‘My wife always loved Turkey from the first time we went there 40 years ago… so it was a no brainer where she would want to be at rest,’ they wrote.

‘Unfortunately it’s never that simple. 

‘It took me nearly two years to get permissions set up with UK airport, airline, Turkish airport, Turkish Government, Turkish Local Council Officials, Main Mosque Representatives, Turkish Police, and Local Port Authorities.’

Still, they said they were ultimately able to organise the journey, and that their ‘mind is at peace’ after being able to do ‘the last physical thing I could do for her’.

While some airlines do allow passengers to take ashes to Turkey in carry-on luggage, there remain restrictions in place for what people can do with them after landing.

Cremation is not legal in Turkey and there are no cremation facilities.

When a British person dies in Turkey, the British government advises, finding a local funeral director to arrange a burial, who ‘will be able to explain the local process’.

Turkey is a Muslim country, and while it is permissible for non-Muslims to be buried in line with their own burial practices within the country, cremation is not allowed under Islamic law.

The bereaved may also arrange the repatriation of the body home.

In 2022, cultural sensitivities on the matter were felt when a Turkish man was accidentally cremated in a hospital in Hannover.

Illustrative image shows Turunc Bay in Marmaris, one of many beautiful parts of the coastline

Illustrative image shows Turunc Bay in Marmaris, one of many beautiful parts of the coastline

The family of Abdülkadir Sargın, a Turkish citizen, were shocked when – during funeral preparations – they discovered the person in the coffin was a complete stranger.

71-year-old Sargın had died from a brain hemorrhage at the MHH hospital in Hannover.

His body was to be transported to a funeral company for an Islamic burial, upon the family’s request.

After the horror discovery, an intern at the hospital’s morgue admitted to having made a mistake and mixing up the bodies, per the Turkish Daily Sabah newspaper. 

The family raised concerns about why the body had been cremated so soon after Sargın’s death, and local police launched an investigation.