Many Indians have long harboured desires of living in more developed countries, particularly in the West – Europe and North America. One of the perks of cruise ship jobs is being able to visit many of these countries, and the temptation to Jumping the cruise and staying on is very real and frankly quite dangerous.
Back when cruising was an emerging market, dozens of crew jumped ship and made comfortable lives for themselves abroad. Today, with the ongoing refugee crisis and economic pressures of maintaining an increasing population, governments are cracking down hard on illegal immigrants.
It might seem like an easy idea to overstay your visa, but the fact remains that once you have crossed over that date, you are considered an illegal immigrant. The US is one of the top countries that crew attempt to jump ship to and if caught, you could be fined up to US$250 and imprisoned for up to six months.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. With a turbid socio-political climate, the US is becoming an increasingly uncomfortable place to be an immigrant, legal or not. People of colour often find themselves victims of crime, and if you have jumped ship, it creates a dilemma of whether one should report the crime or not for fear of being deported.
The lack of identity can be a problem, especially when it comes to healthcare. Without insurance, it can be very expensive to get adequate care for serious conditions. If you have been seriously injured, are unconscious, or worse killed, the lack of identity may make it more difficult for authorities to get the information across to your relatives back home.
As an illegal immigrant, if you are convicted of crime – innocent or not, the consequences are much tougher to deal with. You can be imprisoned for 10 years or more without hope of parole or supervised release.
If you jump ship, get caught and are deported, there is very little chance that you will ever be given a US visa again. In addition, many developed countries can base their reviews of visa applications on rejections or approvals by other countries, and you may thwart your own chances of getting even a tourist visa to places in the Schengen zone, the UK, Australia and Canada if you are blacklisted in the system.
Successfully jumping ship is fraught with dangers. As a cruise ship crew member, if you do not report back when a ship has left port and it is confirmed that you have jumped ship, you are immediately struck off the employment rolls. No company wants to take responsibility for anyone connected to them violating international immigration law.
Some people have tried to jump ship after it has left port, imagining that swimming the deceptively short distance to shore will be easy. Reports have suggested that people have died in the attempt. In 2015, an Albanian being deported from the UK by a cruise liner decided to jump off the ship as it pulled out of Essex, hoping to swim back to shore and into obscurity.
Unfortunately, he was killed almost instantaneously after being sucked underwater by the tides and then “sliced to death by the machete-like motion of the ship’s propellers”.
Living abroad illegally is infinitely harder than working on board a cruise ship. You are constantly trying to avoid getting caught and the few jobs available to people without sufficient documentation offer minimum wage at best.
Additionally, you are thousands of miles away from your family with no way back to them without the risk of being able to re-enter your ‘adoptive’ country. There are many who have jumped ship and gone years without visiting their loved ones.
Any so-called benefits of jumping ship by cruise ship crew are far outweighed by the dangers of doing so.