One Third of Requests to Scatter Ashes Come From Foreigners

Foreigners who don’t live in Iceland make up a third of those who request to have their ashes scattered in the country or in the ocean around it, RÚV reports. Applications for permission to scatter ashes in Iceland have more than doubled from 2013 – 2018.

There have been a total of 158 requests to scatter ashes in the last six years, 53 of which came from individuals with foreign citizenship who did not reside in Iceland while alive. Two applications were rejected in 2013, but no applications have been rejected since. Application numbers have increased fairly steadily, although not entirely consistently: there were 18 applications in 2013, but only 13 in 2015, then 36 in 2017, and 38 in 2018.

These statistics were published in Minister of Justice Sigríður Á. Andersen’s reply to an inquiry from Left-Green MP Andrés Ingi Jónsson about cremations and burials in Iceland. Cremation has become increasingly prevalent in Iceland. Over a quarter of Icelanders who died in 2013 and 2014 were cremated. According to Icelandic law, ashes may be scattered in the sea or over uninhabited land; ashes cannot be scattered in inhabited areas, areas that are likely to be developed for habitation, or lakes. Scattering sites must be well away from main roadways and only on private land if a special permit has been obtained. Ashes may be scattered on mountains, but not near popular hiking trails.

“Each application is evaluated individually and the [scattering area] is examined on a map, if need be,” explained Sigríður in her reply. “Applicants are even asked to provide data on the proposed scattering site and information is obtained from people who are familiar with the area.”