W5 What are the most significant challenges concerning migration and the law of the sea? This weeks reading discusses one of the most pressing challenges

 

What are the most significant challenges concerning migration and the law of the sea?

This weeks reading discusses one of the most pressing challenges in global politics today: Migration. The extent of forced migration is growing exponentially . After viewing the lecture by Professor Godwin-Gill and reading the chapter in the e-book, what in your opinion is the biggest challenge when it comes to this crisis? Focus on the problems with the existing legal positions on the issue on both the international level and the U.S internal policies and laws.  

Migration and Maritime Law

In the years from 2015 to 2016, over 8,000 men, women and children went to their death while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. In addition, 65.3 million people globally were displaced at the end of 2015, making the refugee crisis one of the largest in recorded history. In the global arena, this crisis became a political priority. This is a very important part of International Humanitarian law which is field of international law governed through treaties, conventions, and customary rules, that aim to regulate armed conflicts. The treatment of refugees evolved from this field, mainly after the Second World War and led to the creation of the United Nations Treaty for the Protection of Refugees in 1951.

Article one of the 1951 UN Convention relating to the status of refugees (Geneva Convention) and the 1967 Protocol relating to the status of refugees states that a refugee is someone that: “Owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”.

The treaty failed to create clear criteria for acceptance of refugees. There is still no clear theory to govern the international management of the refugee crisis and the best way to divide the responsibility to care for refugees among the countries of the world.

In the context of maritime law certain treaties have a bearing on this issue in light of the number of refugees traveling via the sea. In the 1988 treaty titled: International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the convention created guidelines for states to regulate the safety of passengers and cargo of ships carrying their flags. Beyond that, the U.N treaty for the protection of refugees, mandates that states to which the refugees come, need to evaluate their refugee status claim. This has a direct effect on the procedures that coast guard units need to develop to manage the new influx of refugees coming from the sea.

While no government has a duty to give asylum, they have the duty to consider the asylum request. As such in cases of maritime migration, the country that accepts the migrants in its territorial waters needs to get them to shore and allow them to make their claim and bring proof. Even if the ship is in international waters, it can not be turned back to the original port since Article 33 clearly states that: ‘No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler‘) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion’.

The question of migration is continuing to change as the scope of the phenomena grows and it is an essential part of the training of anyone involved in Maritime security.

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