YLS Sale Symposium: International Protection Challenges Occasioned by Maritime Movement of Asylum-Seekers[T. Alexander Aleinikoff is the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees.] Irregular maritime movement raises complex issues of “mixed migration” flows, life-risking sea crossings, varying state policies, well-ingrained smuggling and trafficking networks, and emerging regional processes. Movement of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers by sea is a world-wide phenomenon, with Afghans, Sri Lankans, Rohingyas, and Bangladeshis, among others, travelling by boat in the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea; more than 60,000 persons a year (mostly Ethiopians) arriving in Yemen; sub-Saharan Africans and now increasingly Syrians and Palestinians from Syria seeking to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe; and several thousand Cuban and Haitian migrants interdicted each year in the Caribbean. The central goal of UNHCR is that states adopt policies and practices that are protection-sensitive. A protection-sensitive approach would, at a minimum, embrace the following core principles:
- The norm of non-refoulement, which prevents forcible return of a person in need of protection, applies wherever a state has de jure or de facto jurisdiction (that is, whether the individual is encountered on the high seas or within the territorial water of a state).
- Effective application of the non-refoulement principle requires fair and timely procedures for assessing whether an individual in an irregular situation is in need of international protection.
- During the time that refugee claims are being examined, persons must not be subject to arbitrary detention or inhumane or degrading treatment.
- Persons recognized as in need of international protection should ultimately be afforded a solution (such as third country resettlement or lawful presence in the state in which their claim is assessed).