Consider the following common scenario: Numerous members of a family or community in a developing country band together for the purpose of leaving that country. They are looking for a better life for themselves and their children. However, leaving their current country is not easy. The authorities have strict rules about who can leave and with what. In addition, those who attempt leaving “legally” may become the object of abuse by the authorities. Therefore, the people looking to leave will seek “illegal” methods of leaving the country.
To that end, the members of this family or community contact smugglers willing to smuggle the group out of the country. The smugglers charge an astronomical fee and the group will have no recourse against the smugglers if things go awry. Nonetheless, after careful contemplation, the group decides to employ the smugglers because it offers them a prayer of escaping their home country and the chance at a better life in a different country.
The smugglers meet with the heads of the group. They agree on a price that will be paid to the smugglers and how it will be paid. For several weeks, the members of the group prepare to leave. They pack their bags with essentials while devising a plan to remove other valuables. Items like jewelry are sewn into the lining of clothing. The adults and teenagers are involved in heavy exercise so they will be physically fit when it is time to endure the grueling journey that awaits them.
At the same time, the smugglers warn the group that it all must be done in the quietist way possible. The group cannot do anything that will tip off the authorities that they are looking to escape. It will foil the group’s ability to leave the country and will compromise the smugglers’ business. To make it clear that they mean business, the smugglers threaten to kill anyone that discusses the plans with outsiders.
On the appointed date, the group prepares their belongings for the trip. This will be the final time they are home. Late that night, the smugglers come and load everyone into vans. Everyone does their part by loading the vans in total silence. The vans transport the group to a larger house on the outskirts of town. There, the smugglers demand total silence and total obedience. Anyone straying from a direction will be shot on the spot.
Closer to morning, a bus transports the group to the desert, where the group boards camels that will take them across the sand to the ocean. After three difficult days of travel, the group arrives at the ocean, where boats are waiting to take them over the sea to their destination. Though exhausted, the group looks forward to finally leaving their oppressive country.
They load the boats and set sail. At first, the ride is good. However, the water gets rough and the skies become stormy. The boats are overcrowded and unable to handle the load, much less the ocean surf and rough weather. Some of the boats capsize, throwing the people overboard.
Not far away, an American ship responds to a distress call. It finds a whole group of people in peril. Per the Refugee clause, it has a responsibility to save the group, which it does. However, who is responsible to pay for the cost of saving the refugees? The ship owner? The party chartering the ship? Part 2 will discuss further.
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