About the project Share page Warning: This website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. On 26 Aprilthe first boatload of refugees fleeing Vietnam sailed into Darwin Harbour, heralding a series of arrivals over the next few years.
Rescue of Asylum Seekers and Refugees at Sea January 1, Feature By Kathleen Newland The last decade has seen an upsurge in the number of people taking to the sea in search of safety, economic opportunities, or both.
However, danger often awaits those who include a sea route in their flight from developing countries such as Albania, Morocco, Haiti, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Desperate people crowd into decrepit ships, and often are placed in perilous situations by unscrupulous people-smugglers. The headlines are full of tragedies, and many more go undetected. The scale of the problem is hard to measure, as many ships and bodies disappear into the sea. States have reacted sluggishly at best, and cynically at worst, to the increasing numbers of would-be migrants and refugees who encounter serious danger at sea.
To further complicate matters, there is no clear answer in international law to the thorny question of who has responsibility for taking in asylum seekers rescued at sea, adjudicating their claims, and providing a place of safety for those who are confirmed in their need for international protection.
What follows here is a description, in broad strokes, of the dilemma facing refugees and asylum seekers who encounter danger at sea, coastal states, crews and captains, and refugee protection agencies. History From the time the modern refugee regime was codified in the early s until the late s, rescue at sea was not a major issue in refugee protection.
The numbers of asylum seekers picked up were relatively small, and it was usually possible for them to have their claims processed in the next convenient port of call of the rescuing ship. They could then generally find protection there, in the country where the ship was registered, or in another country where the refugee had previous ties.
The Vietnam War changed all that. The problems associated with the rescue of refugees and asylum seekers at sea reached a crisis point in the late s, when tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees took to the South China Sea in boats that were in many cases unseaworthy and in all cases risked becoming the prey of brutal pirates who attacked, looted, and disabled boats, often killing or abducting passengers.
Many merchant vessels plying those waters encountered foundering boats and followed the normal practice of rescuing the passengers and trying to disembark them in the next port of call.
Nearby coastal states such as Malaysia and Thailand, however, feeling overwhelmed as the number of sea-borne refugees continued to climb, refused to allow disembarkation. Inthe United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR brokered an agreement under which the coastal states would allow these "boat people" to come ashore if other mainly Western states agreed to resettle all such people within 90 days of their disembarkation.
However, the arrangement did not work as smoothly as hoped.
Ships found themselves subject to lengthy and costly delays as coastal states demanded that specific resettlement provisions be put in place prior to disembarkation.
Ship owners who respected the traditions and laws governing rescue at sea bore all the direct costs of making a rescue. Refugee boats arrived with dead and dying passengers throughout the early s, and survivors reported that percent of the ships they had hailed refused to respond to distress calls.
Ominously, the ratio of rescues to arrivals continued to shrink. They established a scheme to reimburse owners for the direct costs of rescue, issued guidelines for ship owners and masters on the operational aspects of rescue, and sent out maritime radio messages explaining rescue procedures and appealing for ships to respond to boats in distress.
They also began issuing public commendations to vessels that rescued refugees. Byrescue was again on the rise. The crisis was slowly defused as the new measures took hold and the number of boat departures from Vietnam gradually declined.
Tighter controls at borders and ports-of-entry had the unintended consequence of increasing the role of professional smugglers; the high profits in the trade attracted organized crime to people-smuggling and thereby increased the dangers.
The addition of a criminal element hardened both official and public attitudes toward boat arrivals. Despite the dangers, people have continued to embark, often en masse, from places such as Albania, North Africa, the Caribbean, and Southwest Asia.
Countries such as Turkey and Indonesia have served as major staging points for smugglers assembling passengers from many countries. The toll in human life has been high. Estimates of the number of people drowned in the straits between Spain and North Africa in the s range from to 3, At least a dozen immigrants died and 56 more were missing at the beginning of Decemberafter a vessel carrying about illegal immigrants from Libya toward Italy sank in bad weather off the Libyan coast.
Almost exactly a year earlier, a ship carrying would-be immigrants ran aground just south of the Florida coast, drowning two and leaving the rest to be detained by the U.
Unknown numbers of Cubans and Haitians have died trying to reach the United States in rickety boats and rafts. Codes of Honor, Bodies of Law In the strong and ancient code that binds seafarers, coming to the aid of those in danger is perhaps the most fundamental imperative.
Captains and their crews are obliged to respond to distress calls and mount rescue efforts, so long as they do not endanger themselves or their vessel.
This tradition has, to some extent, been converted into laws. Several countries with long seafaring traditions, including Australia, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States, may actually press criminal charges against captains who fail to render assistance.
Today, international maritime law codifies the obligation to render assistance in such instruments as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue The obligation to extend aid applies without regard to the nationality, status, or circumstances of the person or people in distress.1, Likes, 15 Comments - Princeton University (@princeton_university) on Instagram: “#TellUsTigers: "I started writing songs for my daughter when I was pregnant, but I didn't know they ”.
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After the fall of Saigon in , more than a million desperate people fled Vietnam. Many of the refugees who escaped in small boats came to be called the boat people.
Vietnamese immigrant Lauren Founded: Sep 18, The ‘Boat People of Vietnam’ seemed to encapsulate all the suffering Vietnam had suffered from to Despite the end of the Vietnam War, tragedy for the people of Vietnam continued into The term ‘Boat People’ not only applies to the refugees who fled Vietnam but also to the people of Cambodia and Laos who did the same but .
Danger often awaits people who set out by boat, seeking safety from upheaval or persecution. MPI Co-Director Kathleen Newland examines how governments, the shipping industry, and international bodies have succeeded — or too frequently, failed — to cast a line to those in need.