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Casket and metal container costs also vary widely. In many of the less developed countries of Asia and Africa polished hard wood caskets are not available so that bodies must be shipped in plain wooden boxes, costs of which range from $50 to $150. In the more advanced countries of Europe and Latin America, caskets of polished hardwood with brass fittings are priced at $2,000 or more. Less expensive caskets are available in the $100 to $1,000 range in most advanced countries. In some of the more primitive countries no metal containers are available so that bodies must be transported to a neighboring country for encasement and transshipment to the United States.
While the costs of embalming and casketing a body are very high in many countries, airfreight charges often account for 50 percent to 75 percent of the total cost of shipping a body to its destination in the United States. For example, in Australia the preparation of the body and cost of the casket are under $1,000, while the shipping cost is $1,350.
FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO BEREAVED RELATIVES OF THE DECEASED
(a) Individual cases
The expense of arranging for the disposition of the remains of American citizens who die abroad places a heavy financial burden on the bereaved families of the deceased, especially if the embalmed remains are returned to the United States. While the Department and its Foreign Service posts have no real control over local mortuary costs or international airfreight rates, consular officers do monitor local mortuary and burial costs and each post must file a “Disposition of Remains” report annually. Our consular officers instruct local mortuaries to use the least expensive casket that meets international shipping requirements unless the family in the United States instructs the consular officer to do otherwise.
The Department of State and its posts abroad assess no fees for use of telecommunications facilities for transmission of death notification cables, for disposition instructions from families to posts, for transfer of funds, or for any consular services related to arranging for the disposition of remains, preparing the consular mortuary certificate, handling payment of the expenses incurred, or completing and forwarding to the next of kin the official report of death. Any unexpended portion of the funds deposited for the disposition of remains is returned to the depositor.
At the present time, Department of Defense regulations do not permit the use of aircraft under its control to transport the remains of private U.S. citizens who die abroad except when commercial airfreight facilities are not available and when a determination is made that shipment on a Government aircraft would be in the national interest. Such determinations are rarely made. (b) Major catastrophes
In only two recent instances has the U.S. Government dsparted from the above established norm: (1) The Tenerife Pan Am-KLM air crash in March 1977; and (2) the Jonestown, Guyana tragedy in Vorember 1978. In each instance there were a large number of casualties (over 500 in one and over 900 in the other) and a massive problem
of identification of remains for which commercial and local government facilities were inadequate. In these two catastrophic emergencies, the U.S. Government acted under the constitutional authority of the President as Chief Executive and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces in utilizing the equipment and facilities of the Department of Defense. In the Tenerife case, the air carrier and its insurers reimbursed the U.S. Government for its expenses, and in the Guyana instance the Department of Justice is taking all possible legal steps to recover the costs incurred from assets of the People's Temple here and abroad.
ALTERNATIVE PROCEDURES FOR ASSISTING BEREAVED FAMILIES OF
AMERICANS WHO DIE ABROAD
LOAN PROGRAM- -GENERAL CRITERIA
The Department does not have legal authority to make loans to families of Americans who die abroad to assist in arranging the disposition of remains of the deceased. Were the Department to be granted such authority by the Congress, an executed promissory note would have to be obtained from the next of kin or legal representative of the deceased and witnessed by another American citizen, or in lieu of actual receipt of the promissory note, assurance by telephone or cable from a reliable source that a promissory note had been duly executed and witnessed. The Department has identified several alternative procedures by which this might be done: (a) Administrative cooperation of the U.S. Postal Service
In this alternative the death notification cable would inform the next of kin or legal representative that if he or she could not obtain, within the time frame required by local regulations, from his or her own resources or some other private source the amount of money required to dispose of the remains as desired, the next of kin or legal representative should go to the nearest U.S. Post Office and execute a promissory note for a U.S. Government loan for the amount needed for this purpose. An authorized postal official would identify the person as the next of kin or legal representative, witness the signing of the promissory note and notify the Department by the fastest means available (phone or cable) that the note had been executed for such and such an amount. Thereupon the Department would authorize the consular officer abroad to proceed with making arrangements for the disposition of the remains in accordance with the family's wishes. As soon as possible the postal official who witnessed the signing of the note would send the original and one copy to the Department of State. Collecting the loan would be the responsibility of the Department's Office of Finance.
There is a U.S. Post Office in some 40,000 localities throughout the country and every American citizen has easy access to at least one of them. That the witness to the execution of the promissory note would be a U.S. Gorernment official would be a plus both because of his or her reliability and because in many cases the witness would have access to U.S. Government-leased telephone and/or cable lines.
Historically, foreign travelers have been able to travel in the States virtually unrestricted. This openness not only derived fro apparent assumption that we have nothing to hide, but from a tion that to know us is at least the beginning of understanding.
cies of openness in the belief that doing so would promote tional understanding. Efforts in this behalf have taken many
The United States restricts the travel of diplomats and other offrials of certain countries assigned to embassies and consulates in the United States and to the United Nations in New York. In this case, the restrictions are imposed for reasons of reciprocity and national secarity in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, of which the United States is a party. In this regard, the Department notes that subsection (d) of section 126 does not permit Subsection (a) to be construed as limiting restrictions of travel by
The United States has long encouraged all countries to adopt foreign officials which are imposed on the basis of reciprocity.
for example, exchange programs sponsored by civic and religious restrictions on the travel of U.S. officials in their countries. In one
nizations and by the U.S. Government, legislation passed by the gress, and policy statements. In the Conference on Security and eration in Europe, the United States was a strong advocate of removal of restrictions on the free movement of people and ideas. the signing of the CSCE Final Act at Helsinki in 1975, the States has continued to work for the fulfillment of these and provisions of this document.
The United States has offered to remove restrictions on the travel of foreign officials if their governments would reciprocate by removing notable case, the Soviet Union, the United States has never received a positive response to these approaches, although some progress toward the liberalization of restrictions has been made in the ebb and flow of the changes of Soviet policy. When the Soviet Government liberalized their restrictions somewhat in 1974, the United States reciprocated. However, at that time, the United States closed the entire area of several States in the continental United States in response to the informal closing of a number of border areas in the Soviet Union. In 1976, in an initiative connected with the Helsinki Final Act, the Tnited States reopened these areas to travel by Soviet diplomats. The Soviet Government did not respond and the border areas remained
has compiled information of existing restrictions on the travel of closed to travel by U.S. diplomats. In January 1978, the Soviet Govern
Section 126 of Public Law 95-426 is a welcome new initiative port of openness and provisions of international agreements call for the removal of restrictions.
citizens by foreign governments. On the basis of this information in accordance with the provisions of the law, the Department advise appropriate governments of the general policy expressed tion 126(a) and continue efforts to remove existing restrictions. Department will report on the progress of these efforts in subs annual reports required in this provision.
In compiling this information, the Department concentrate restrictions of travel within countries of an arbitrary nature. or immigration laws and regulations as such were not considere unwarranted restriction of travel since they are generally accep in international and U.S. law and usually control entry into count However, in some cases they are applied in such a way as to const an arbitrary restriction of internal travel. In such cases, the restri action of the application of visa laws is duly noted.
lased on reciprocity or nationality but, as noted, on provisions of U.S. law. In the opinion of the Department, these restrictions are neither arbitrary nor discriminatory. Numerically, they are a minute portion. of the visas issued to nonofficial foreign travelers. The overwhelming remainder of visas are issued without restrictions on travel within the United States.
ment issued an ostensibly liberalized set of travel regulations, although most attempts by members of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to travel in the areas newly opened by these regulations have so far been refused. At the same time, the border areas were formally closed to travel by U.S. diplomats.
nonofficial foreign travel in the United States, a number of other In contrast to the almost unexceptional absence of restrictions on governments impose restrictions on the nonofficial travel of U.S. citizens, and often of other foreigners as well. Based on the information
Section 126(a) and section 126(b) (2) also refer to restri imposed by the United States on the private travel of foreign nati applied . Aside from the restrictions imposed by the United States on travel of certain foreign diplomats in accordance with internet law discussed below, the only other such restrictions are accordance with the provisions of U.S. visa laws. Restrictions imposed almost exclusively in conjunction with the issuance of wa of various grounds of visa ineligibility. These restrictions are
available to the Department, following is a country-by-country descrip
tion of those restrictions:
be permitted to travel to certain areas due to security conditions. Afghanistan.-Tourists are welcome in Afghanistan but may not Tourists are required to make in-country travel arrangements through Afghan Tours, the Government-owned travel agency. Precise travel regulations and procedures, however, have not been issued. Foreign als must give a 2-day notice for travel beyond 50 kilometers of
Kabal or for overnight stays.
Albania-Seldom are U.S. citizens permitted to visit Albania. When diplomatic relations with Albania. travel is severely limited. The United States does not have
dals within the country.
Algeria-Relations are imposed on the travel of all foreign offi
Government loan is needed to cover the expenses of disposing of the remains as desired.
There is a funeral director located in or close to most inhabited areas in the United States, and one is almost always readily available. Since the funeral director who would witness the execution of the promissory note would also probably be the one who would handle the funeral arrangements for the body shipped from abroad, he would have an interest in performing this service well and expeditiously.
Except for the likelihood of ready availability, this alternative suffers from the disadvantages of the postal official alternative described above: Promissory note forms would have to be stocked in thousands of funeral directors' offices; the funeral directors would have to be educated in the procedures for witnessing the execution of the note, informing the Department, and forwarding the note and one copy. Most of these funeral directors would never have occasion to act on this information so that the time and effort involved in getting them the forms and instructing them would be largely wasted. Then, too, the funeral directors would not have access to 'U.S. Government-leased telephone and cable lines so that this alternative would involve some additional communications costs. There is also some question as to whether a non-U.S. Government employee would be acceptable as a witness to a promissory note for a U.S. Government loan. Finally, it could be argued that there would be a possible conflict of interest in that the funeral director would be the vendor of the service and therefore one of the interested parties. For these reasons this alternative procedure seems neither practical nor feasible. (c) Administrative cooperation of American Express or Western
Union Neither of these alternatives offers any advantages that alternatives (a) and (b) do not offer. They suffer from all the disadvantages, and at least one additional disadvantage; namely, that as private sector companies, American Express and Western Union would want par. ment-and not just reimbursement--for the promissory note service and its related actions.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON PROMISSORY NOTE ALTERNATIVES
(1) None of the people that might perform the promissory note service would be in a position to verify the claimed indigeney of the signee, nor could they be expected to pass judgment in this regard. The system would have to operate on an unvetted basis, with all the conse quences of bad debt jeopardy.
(2) Next of kin who cannot afford to have remains of deceased fam. ily members returned to the United States might under emotiona stress make a bad decision in this respect, opt for return of the remains and regret that decision later when payment falls due. In these cir cumstances, the Government can expect a high percentage of defaults (3) Unless the loan was made on the going prime rate of interest basis, next of kin who might have sufficient funds available or be able to obtain funds from other private sources would be tempted to borrow from the U.S. Government at a reduced interest rate. The Government would then become a competitor of private lending institutions at the taxpayers' expense.
(4) Promissory notes now signed by Americans in foreign countries for loans to cover medical expenses and/or repatriation are notarized by the consular officer. There appears to be no feasible way, given the time constraints, that a promissory note signed by a next of kin for disposal of remains could be notarized.
(5) There would be inequity and discrimination in providing loans for disposition of remains of Americans who die abroad without doing so for Americans who die within the United States at a distance from their final resting place. For example, it can cost just as much, or more, to prepare and ship a body from Hawaii or Alaska to New York as it does from Europe to New York.
COSTS TO U.S. GOVERNMENT OF PROMISSORY NOTE LOAX PROGRAM
A promissory note loan program would involve two cost elements: (1) The funds that would have to be appropriated to provide the loans, and (2) the additional costs to administer the program. It is impossible to predict with accuracy the amount that would be needed to cover the loans. Based on the 1977 statistics, we can predict with some confidence that slightly more than two-thirds of the American citizens who die abroad, most of them naturalized Americans who had returned to their native land for retirement, will be buried or cremated and disposed of locally. Our experience would seem to indicate that most next of kin of these people will not need U.S. Government loan assistance to cover the expense of local burial or cremation. It would also be a rare case in which the next of kin of native Americans who die in retirement abroad will need a U.S. Government loan either for local burial or return of the remains to the United States for burial. Most of these native Americans, if not wealthy, would have sufficient financial resources for these purposes.
We estimate about 400 next of kin might apply for a Government loan to return the body of a relative to the United States. With the average cost of preparing a body for shipment (including ca-ket), and airfreight charges of about $3,000,2 an appropriation of about $1.119,
W would be needed to provide loans for returning remains to the C'nited States. These estimates are very general because of many
The cost of administering a promissory note loan program should not be great. Printing of the promissory note forms and distributing them, and printing and distributing instructions to whoever might witness the execution of the notes, would cost an estimated $10.000). There might be some small increase in communications cost, but we would anticipate that no additional funds would be necessary for new positions.
An estimate based on costs reported in the spring of 1978, inflation and fall of the chilar internationally in the interim, and known actual costs in cases during October and