|The essential role of Malta in drafting the new regional agreement on migrants at sea in the Mediterranean basin|
Coppens, J. (2013). The essential role of Malta in drafting the new regional agreement on migrants at sea in the Mediterranean basin. J. Marit. Law Commer. 44(89): 22 pp
In: Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce. Jefferson Law Book Co.: Cincinnati. ISSN 0022-2410; e-ISSN 2162-4127
Search and Rescue, Disembarkation, Reputational Theory, Seaborne Migrants, Law of the Sea
The Arab Spring recently highlighted the problem of migrants at sea and the shortcomings of the international legal framework. Indeed, due to the social uprisings in Tunesia and Lybia, thousands of people tried to reach Europe by sea. This is a dangerous journey, as these asylum seekers often travel in unseaworthy vessels. As a result of the Arab Spring, it is estimated that more than 1.500 people drowned or went missing while attempting to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe in 2011. These events are a reminder of the extremes that people in difficult situations sometimes resort to. The international community is aware that this problem has to be tackled as soon as possible in order to prevent further loss of life. This article first deals with the current international legal framework concerning migrants at sea and its shortcomings. Secondly, we take a look at how Malta interprets the existing obligations. Thirdly, recent developments within the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on the Draft Regional Agreement for the Mediterranean Basin – an agreement hoping to solve the problem of disembarking migrants at sea in the Mediterranean – will be highlighted. Finally, we will discuss how Malta – a small State of only 316 km2 – influences the content of the agreement and how this island itself is being affected by it.