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Between life, security and rights: Framing the interdiction of ‘boat migrants’ in the Central Mediterranean and Australia

  • Violeta Moreno-Lax (a1), Daniel Ghezelbash (a2) and Natalie Klein (a3)

Abstract

This article sets out two case studies to examine the evolving reality of ‘boat migration’ and the intersecting legal frameworks at play. Our analysis takes a systemic integration approach to reflect on the complex dynamics underpinning responses to the phenomenon in Australia and the Central Mediterranean. The regime that governments purport to act under in any given instance reflects the way they choose to frame incidents and possibly exploit legal gaps in, or contested interpretations of, the relevant rules. The ‘closed ports’ strategy adopted by Italy and Malta against the MV Lifeline and the detention-at-sea policy pursued by Australia are investigated from the competing perspectives of what we call the ‘security lens’ and the ‘humanitarian lens’ to demonstrate how a good faith interpretation of the applicable (if apparently conflicting and overlapping) norms can (and should) be mobilized to save lives, and how that goal is unduly undercut when security concerns trump humanitarian interests.

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The authors are respectively: Senior Lecturer in Law, Queen Mary University of London, SAROBMED Coordinator, and lead counsel in ECtHR, S.S. and Others v. Italy, Appl. 21660/18 (pending) and C.O. and A.J. v. Italy, Appl. 40396/18 (pending) with the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN); Senior Lecturer in Law, Macquarie University; and Professor of Law, University of New South Wales. This research was supported by the HSS Collaborative Fund of Queen Mary University of London, financing the SAROBMED project sarobmed.org/ through which the factual information regarding the MV Lifeline was collected, and by a Macquarie University Research Development Grant.

Footnotes

References

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1 For an overview of the phenomenon see V. Moreno-Lax and E. Papastavridis (eds.), ‘Boat Refugees’ and Migrants at Sea: A Comprehensive Approach (2016).

2 Missing Migrants, 16 August 2018, available at missingmigrants.iom.int/region/mediterranean.

3 See A. Schloenhardt and C. Craig, ‘Turning Back the Boats: Australia’s Interdiction of Irregular Migrants at Sea’, (2015) 27 IJRL 536; J. Phillips, ‘Boat Arrivals and Boat “Turnbacks” in Australia since 1976: A Quick Guide to the Statistics’, 17 January 2017, available at www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/rp/rp1617/quick_guides/boatturnbacks.

4 B. N. Ghráinne, ‘Left to Die at Sea: State Responsibility for the May 2015 Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian Pushback Operations’, (2015) 10 The Irish Yearbook of International Law 109.

5 See, e.g., ‘Spain offers to take in Aquarius ship carrying over 600 refugees’, Al Jazeera, 11 June 2018, available at www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/06/spain-offers-aquarius-ship-carrying-600-refugees-180611133533958.html; and ‘Rescue Boat Open Arms Arrives in Sport Port with 87 Migrants’, Reuters, 9 August 2018, available at uk.reuters.com/article/uk-europe-migrants-spain/rescue-boat-open-arms-arrives-in-spanish-port-with-87-migrants-aboard-idUKKBN1KU1H0. The strategy has been formalized in a decree imposing fines, confiscation of vessels, and other sanctions on rescue ships that disembark or attempt to disembark rescued migrants in Italian ports without authorization: ‘decreto legge n.53 del 14 giugno 2019, Disposizioni urgenti per il potenziamento dell’efficacia dell’azione amministrativa a supporto delle politiche di sicurezza’, Gazzetta Ufficiale, available at www.gazzettaufficiale.it/eli/id/2019/06/14/19G00063/sg.

6 R. Baroud, ‘The West’s War on Refugees’, Gulf News, 17 July 2018, available at gulfnews.com/opinion/thinkers/the-west-s-war-on-refugees-1.2253034; See also D. Ghezelbash, Refuge Lost: Asylum Law in an Interdependent World (2018), Ch. 7; D. Ghezelbash, ‘Forces of Diffusion: What Drives the Transfer of Immigration Policy and Law Across Jurisdictions?’, (2014) 1 IJMBS 139.

7 CPCF v. Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, (2015) 255 CLR 514.

8 For discussion of the problems of fragmentation see International Law Commission, ‘Fragmentation of International Law: Difficulties Arising from the Diversification and Expansion of International Law’, Report of the Study Group of the International Law Commission Finalised by Martti Koskenniemi, (2006) A/CN.4/L.682. See also N. Klein, ‘A Case for Harmonizing Laws on Maritime Interceptions of Irregular Migrants’, (2014) 63 ICLQ 787, at 803–4.

9 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT), 1155 UNTS 331, Art. 26. For analysis see, generally, R. Kolb, Good Faith in International Law (2017).

10 For a concrete proposal and further references see V. Moreno-Lax, ‘Systematising Systemic Integration: “War Refugees”, Regime Relations, and a Proposal for a Cumulative Approach to International Commitments’, (2014) 12 JICJ 907. See also Klein, supra note 8, at 807–13.

11 VCLT, Art. 31(3)(c). See also P. Merkouris, Article 31(3)(c) VCLT and the Principle of Systemic Integration (2015).

12 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1833 UNTS 3, Arts. 2(3), 87(1).

13 Corfu Channel Case (United Kingdom v. Albania), Merits, Judgment of 9 April 1949, [1949] ICJ Rep. 4, at 22, para. 215; Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States), Merits, Judgment of 27 June 1986, [1986] ICJ Rep. 14, at 112–14, paras. 215, 218. See, generally, P. M. Dupuy, ‘Les “considérations élémentaires de l’humanité” dans la jurisprudence de la Cour Internationale de Justice’, in R. J. Dupuy and L. A. Sicilianos (eds.), Mélanges en l’honneur de N. Valticos – Droit et justice (1999).

14 A. A. Cançado Trindade, International Law for Humankind (2013), 394.

15 See, e.g., B. Simma and D. Pulkowski, ‘Of Planets and the Universe: Self-contained Regimes in International Law’, (2006) 17 EJIL 483; C. McLachlan, ‘The Principle of Systemic Integration and Article 31(3)(c) of the Vienna Convention’, (2005) 54 ICLQ 279; D. French, ‘Treaty Interpretation and The Incorporation Of Extraneous Legal Rules’, (2006) 55 ICLQ 281; G. Orellana Zabalza, The Principle of Systemic Integration (2012); D. Pulkowski, The Law and Politics of International Regime Conflict (2014).

16 UNCLOS, Art. 2.

17 UNCLOS, Art. 2(3).

18 UNCLOS, Art. 17.

19 UNCLOS, Art. 18(1)(a), (b).

20 UNCLOS, Art. 19(2)(g).

21 UNCLOS, Art. 18(2).

22 UNCLOS, Art. 33.

23 Ibid.

24 UNCLOS, Art. 89.

25 UNCLOS, Art. 87.

26 UNCLOS, Art. 90.

27 UNCLOS, Art. 92(1).

28 See UNCLOS, Art .110. Another exception is the right of hot pursuit: UNCLOS, Art. 111.

29 A vessel is stateless if it is not flagged to, or registered in, any particular state. In such case, it does not enjoy the protection of any particular state. See UNCLOS, Arts. 91, 92.

30 One view is that statelessness creates a legal vacuum allowing a boarding state to assert its laws and enforcement jurisdiction over the vessel: D. Guilfoyle, Shipping Interdiction on the Law of the Sea (2009), 341–2; A. Dastyari, United States Migrant Interdiction and the Detention of Refugees in Guantánamo Bay (2015), 79–82. A second view is that statelessness in itself is not enough, and there must be some sort of jurisdictional nexus in order to enliven enforcement powers: E. Papastavridis, The Interception of Vessels on the High Seas (2013), 264–7; J. Coppens, ‘Interception of Migrant Boats at Sea’, in Moreno-Lax and Papastavridis, supra note 1, at 209.

31 UNCLOS, Art. 110. Cf. UNCLOS, Art. 107, expressly conferring powers of ‘seizure on account of piracy’ on warships or military aircraft of any state.

32 Cf. Dastyari, supra note 30; Guilfoyle, supra note 30.

33 UNCLOS, Art. 87(1). In addition, the nationality of those on board may give a basis for a state to exercise its right of diplomatic protection. This right accrues to the state rather than the individual, who only enjoys a right to consular assistance. See LaGrand (Germany v. United States), Merits, Judgment of 27 June 2001, [2001] ICJ Rep. 466. As a result, human rights protections remain paramount.

34 2000 Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (Smuggling Protocol), 2241 UNTS 480, Art. 8(7).

35 Smuggling Protocol, Art. 6. States may also become parties to the Trafficking Protocol, which can also form the basis for action at sea where there are victims of human trafficking: 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (Trafficking Protocol), 2237 UNTS 319. For discussion see Guilfoyle supra note 30, at 226–31.

36 Smuggling Protocol, Art. 8(7).

37 See V. Moreno-Lax, ‘Seeking Asylum in the Mediterranean: Against a Fragmentary Reading of EU Member States’ Obligations Accruing at Sea’, (2011) 23 IJRL 174, at 188–9 and references therein to ECtHR, Medvedyev v. France, Appl. 3394/03, 29 March 2010, where the Court concluded a similarly worded provision in the Vienna Convention on Narcotic Drugs to be insufficient to warrant a measure of deprivation of liberty.

38 Smuggling Protocol, Art. 8(1)–(3).

39 For discussion on these sort of agreements see Guilfoyle supra note 30, at 189–91, 196, 209–10, 219; E. Papastavridis ‘Interception of Human Beings on the High Seas: A Contemporary Analysis under International Law’, (2009) 36 Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce 145, at 178–87.

40 UNCLOS, preamble: ‘matters not regulated by this Convention continue to be governed by the rules and principles of general international law’. See also Art. 2(3) (territorial sea) and Art. 87(1) (high seas).

41 1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS Convention), 1184 UNTS 278; 1979 International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR Convention), 1405 UNTS 119.

42 IMO, Maritime Safety Committee, Guidelines on the Treatment of Persons Rescued at Sea (IMO Guidelines), (2004) MSC.167(78), MSC 78/26/Add.2 (Ann. 34).

43 UNCLOS, Art. 98(1).

44 UNCLOS, Art. 98(1)(b).

45 UNCLOS, Art. 98(2) (emphasis added).

46 SOLAS Convention, Ann., Ch. 5, Reg. 33(1).

47 SAR Convention, Ann., para. 2.1.1.

48 SOLAS Convention, Ann., Ch. 5, Reg. 33(1); SAR Convention, Ann., para. 2.1.10.

49 SOLAS Convention, Amendment, MSC 78/26/Add.1, Ann. 3, inserting new para. 6.

50 SAR Convention, Ann., para. 2.1.4.

51 SAR Convention, Ann., para. 2.1.3.

52 SAR Convention, Ann., para. 1.3.3.

53 SAR Convention, Ann., para. 3.1.9.

54 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 999 UNTS 171.

55 1984 Convention against Torture (CAT), 1465 UNTS 85.

56 Ibid., Art. 3. Art. 7 ICCPR has also been interpreted to similar effect. HRC, ‘General Comment No. 20: Article 7’, (1994) HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 30, para. 9.

57 HRC, ‘General Comment No. 36 on Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), on the right to life’, (2018) CCPR/C/GC/36.

58 1998 Protocol No. 4 to the [ECHR], ETS 46, Art. 4.

59 1950 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), ETS 005, Art. 13.

60 This right is implicit in the obligation of non-refoulement: V. Moreno-Lax, Accessing Asylum in Europe (2017), Chs. 8, 9, 10; Papastavridis, supra note 30, at 217.

61 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention), 189 UNTS 150, Art. 1(A)(2); 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Protocol), 606 UNTS 267, Art. 1(2).

62 ECtHR, Amuur v. France, Appl. 19776/92, 25 June 1996, para. 43.

63 Ibid. See also ECtHR, M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece, Appl. 30696/09, 21 January 2011, paras. 216, 313, 321.

64 See, e.g., N. Klein, ‘Assessing Australia’s Push Back the Boats Policy under International Law: Legality and Accountability for Maritime Interceptions of Irregular Migrants’, (2014) 15 MJIL 414; D. Ghezelbash et al., ‘Securitization of Search and Rescue at Sea: The Response to Boat Migration in the Mediterranean and Offshore Australia’, (2018) 67 ICLQ 315; V. Moreno-Lax, The Interdiction of Asylum Seekers at Sea: Law and (Mal)practice in Europe and Australia, Kaldor Centre Policy Brief No 4 (2017).

65 For a monographic elaboration see Moreno-Lax, supra note 60.

66 HRC, ‘General Comment No. 31: Nature of the General Legal Obligation Imposed on States Parties to the Covenant’, (2004) CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.13, para. 10. Cf. HRC, General Comment No. 36, supra note 57, paras. 22, 63, speaking rather of ‘a direct and reasonably foreseeable impact on the right[s] … of individuals’ alongside ‘effective control’ as a trigger of extraterritorial responsibility. For further commentary see V. Moreno-Lax and M. Lemberg-Pedersen, ‘Border-Induced Displacement: The Ethical and Legal Implications of Distance-Creation through Externalization’, (2019) 56 QIL 5.

67 CAT Committee, ‘Concluding Observations: United States of America’, (2006) CAT/C/USA/C/2, para. 20.

68 ECtHR, Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy, Appl. 27765/09, 23 February 2012, para. 73.

69 V. Moreno-Lax and M. Giuffré, ‘The Rise of Consensual Containment: From “Contactless Control” to “Contactless Responsibility” for Forced Migration Flows’, in S. Juss (ed.), Research Handbook on International Refugee Law (2019), 81–108.

71 C. Heller and L. Pezzani, ‘Mare Clausum: Italy and the EU’s Undeclared Operation to Stem Migration across the Mediterranean’, Forensic Oceanography, 2018, available at content.forensic-architecture.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2018-05-07-FO-Mare-Clausum-full-EN.pdf.

72 For a detailed reconstruction see E. Paoletti, The Migration of Power and North-South Inequalities: The Case of Italy and Libya (2011).

73 Trattato di Amicizia, Partenariato e Cooperazione tra la Repubblica Italiana e la Grande Giamahiria Araba Libica Popolare Socialista, 30 August 2008, unofficial translation available at eumigrationlawblog.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/MEMORANDUM_translation_finalversion.doc.pdf.

74 Hirsi, supra note 68.

75 But see persisting links throughout that period, according to Statewatch, ‘Documents unveil post-Gaddafi cooperation agreement on immigration’, September 2012, available at www.statewatch.org/news/2012/sep/01italy-libya-immigration-cooperation.html.

76 Memorandum of Understanding of 2 February 2017 (English translation), available at www.asgi.it/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ITALY-LIBYA-MEMORANDUM-02.02.2017.pdf.

77 ‘Italy gives Libya four patrol boats to help fight illegal immigration’, The Local, 16 May 2017, available at www.thelocal.it/20170516/italy-gives-libya-four-patrol-boats-to-bolster-coastguard. See also European Commission, ‘EU Trust Fund for Africa adopts €46 million programme to support integrated migration and border management in Libya’, Press Release, 28 July 2017, available at europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-2187_en.htm.

78 EUNAVFOR MED Op Sophia – Monitoring of Libyan Coast Guard and Navy Report October 2017 – January 2018, Council doc. 6961/18 EU Restricted, 9 March 2018 (on file with the authors), 24, 26.

79 ‘Operazione Mare Sicuro’, Ministero della Difesa, 12 March 2015, available at www.difesa.it/OperazioniMilitari/NazionaliInCorso/MareSicuro/Pagine/default.aspx. See also ‘Italy launches Mare Sicuro to monitor Libya’s coastline’, Marsad, 30 March 2015, available at www.marsad.ly/en/2015/03/30/italy-launches-mare-sicuro-to-monitor-libyas-coastline/.

80 ‘Il decreto che autorizza la nuova missione navale in Libia’, Analisi Difesa, 31 July 2017, available at www.analisidifesa.it/2017/07/il-decreto-che-autorizza-la-nuova-missione-navale-in-libia/.

81 Operation Mare Sicuro, Marina Militare Italiana, SHADE MED Presentation, Rome 23–24 November 2017. See also EUNAVFOR MED Op SOPHIA - Six Monthly Report 1 June – 30 November 2017, Council doc. 16013/17 EU Restricted, 22 December 2017 (on file with the authors).

82 Ibid.

83 Ibid.

84 Relazione analitica sulle missioni internazionali in corso e sullo stato degli interventi di cooperazione allo sviluppo a sostegno dei processi di pace e di stabilizzazione, deliberata dal Consiglio dei ministri il 28 dicembre 2017, DOC. CCL-bis, N. 1, Scheda 36, 101, available at www.senato.it/service/PDF/PDFServer/BGT/1063681.pdf.

85 ECtHR, Chiragov and Others v. Armenia, Appl. 13216/05, 16 June 2015, para. 178.

86 IOM, Libya–Maritime Incidents Update (25 October–28 November 2017), available at displacement.iom.int/reports/libya-—-maritime-incidents-update-25-october-—-28-november.

87 The Politico revelations come in support of this affirmation. See Z. Campbell, ‘Europe’s Deadly Migration Strategy: Officials knew EU military operation made Mediterranean crossing more dangerous’, Politico, 28 February 2019, available at www.politico.eu/article/europe-deadly-migration-strategy-leaked-documents/.

88 Jurisdiction under Art. 1 ECHR is a threshold criterion that must be met to ‘activate’ ECHR obligations. The relevant standard in extraterritorial circumstances is ‘effective control’, which departs from connotations under general international law. For an elaboration see M. Milanovic, Extraterritorial Application of Human Rights Treaties (2011).

89 See notes 66–7 and accompanying text. See also CATCom, J.H.A. v. Spain, Comm. 323/ 2007, 10 November 2008, para. 8.2; CATCom, Sonko v. Spain, Comm. 368/ 2008, 20 February 2012, para. 10.3.

90 Cf. ECtHR, S.S. and Others v. Italy, Appl. 21660/18 (pending); C.O. and A.J. v. Italy, Appl. 40396/18 (pending).

91 ‘Over 27,000 migrants to Europe by sea in 2018, 636 victims’, ANSA, 24 May 2018 (citing IOM figures), available at www.infomigrants.net/en/post/9447/over-27-000-migrants-to-europe-by-sea-in-2018-636-victims.

93 ‘Salvini vows to end all migrant arrivals to Italy by boat’, The Local, 6 July 2018, available at www.thelocal.it/20180706/matteo-salvini-migrant-arrivals-boat.

94 ‘For the first time, Italy prevents a private Italian ship from docking with rescued migrants’, The Local, 10 July 2018, available at www.thelocal.it/20180710/italy-turns-away-private-italian-ship-vos-thalassa-rescued-migrants-libya.

95 The first such standoff since Salvini took office regards the MV Aquarius, jointly operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and SAR NGO SOS Méditerranée, denied disembarkation both by Italy and Malta, with Spain stepping in several days after, granting permission to land in Valencia, 842 NM away from the vessel’s location. See ‘Italy fires a fresh warning as migrants sing and pray on stranded ship’, Times of Malta, 11 June 2018, available at www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20180611/local/migrants-sing-and-pray-aboard-ship-as-governments-argue-about-their.681443?utm_source=tom&utm_campaign=top5&utm_medium=widget; ‘Malta offers medical assistance to migrants’ ship – Muscat’, Times of Malta, 11 June 2018, available at www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20180611/local/malta-offers-medical-assistance-to-migrants-ship-muscat.681484; ‘Updated (6): Spain lets migrants’ ship dock in Valencia; we cannot let this happen again – Muscat’, Malta Independent, 11 June 2018, available at www.independent.com.mt/articles/2018-06-11/local-news/Migrants-stranded-Malta-says-Italy-going-against-international-rules-6736191457.

96 ‘Malta Says Not Responsible For Lifeline Boat Denied By Italy’, Al Jazeera, 22 June 2018, available at www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2018/06/malta-responsible-lifeline-boat-denied-italy-180622154705983.html.

97 Exchange of emails between MV Lifeline and Rome MRCC (on file with authors).

98 See decision by the judge of Catania adjudicating on the related case of MV Open Arms, Tribunale di Catania, 27 March 18, at 22, available at www.statewatch.org/news/2018/apr/it-open-arms-sequestration-judicial-order-tribunale-catania.pdf.

99 Although the LYCG did not immediately reply to requests from the MV Lifeline, on 25 June 2018, i.e., four days after the rescue, they indicated Tripoli as a ‘place of safety’, where the survivors should be taken, via email (on file with authors).

100 ‘“Detained and Dehumanised” Report on Human Rights Abuses against Migrants in Libya’, 13 December 2016, UNSMIL/OHCHR, available at www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/LY/DetainedAndDehumanised_en.pdf; UN Secretary-General’s statement on reported news of slavery in Libya, 20 November 2017, available at www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2017-11-20/secretary-general%E2%80%99s-statement-reported-news-slavery-libya; ‘Libya’s Dark Web of Collusion: Abuses against Europe-bound Refugees and Migrants’, 11 December 2017, Amnesty International, available at www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde19/7561/2017/en/; ‘Abuse Behind Bars: Arbitrary and Unlawful Detention in Libya’, April 2018, OHCHR, available at www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/LY/AbuseBehindBarsArbitraryUnlawful_EN.pdf; ‘Libyan Forces Abuse Migrants at Sea’, 6 July 2018, Human Rights Watch, available at www.hrw.org/middle-east/n-africa/libya.

101 MV Lifeline email to Malta RCC, 24 June 2018 (on file with authors).

102 Ibid.

103 Ibid.

104 Ibid.

105 Ibid.

106 Malta RCC email to MV Lifeline, 24 June 2018 (on file with authors).

107 Ibid.

108 Ibid.

109 Ibid.

110 Ibid.

111 ‘Eight EU Member States to take in MV Lifeline immigrants’, TVM News, 27 June 2018, available at www.tvm.com.mt/en/news/today-pm-to-give-leight-eu-member-states-to-take-in-mv-lifeline-immigrantsatest-details-on-how-situation-of-mv-lifeline-is-developing/.

112 K. S. Orland, ‘MV Lifeline captain charged with entering Maltese waters on unlicensed vessel, bail given’, Malta Independent, 2 July 2018, available at www.independent.com.mt/articles/2018-07-02/local-news/MV-Lifeline-captain-arrives-in-court-for-hearing-6736192797.

113 Y. Pace, ‘NGOs fear more deaths in the Mediterranean as Italy and Malta close ports’, Malta Today, 1 July 2018, available at www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/87915/ngos_fear_more_deaths_in_the_mediterranean_as_italy_and_malta_close_ports#.Wz5oma17F8f.

114 ‘Malta detains second migrant rescue ship’, Gulf Times, 3 July 2018, available at www.gulf-times.com/story/598219/Malta-detains-second-migrant-rescue-ship.

115 H. Strange, J. Squires and J. Huggler, ‘Spike in migrant drownings in Mediterranean blamed on tough new approach by Italy and EU’, Telegraph, 12 July 2018, available at www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/12/spike-migrant-drownings-mediterranean-blamed-tough-new-approach/.

116 ‘For the first time, Italy prevents a private Italian ship from docking with rescued migrants’, The Local, supra note 94.

117 ‘Nave italiana Vos Thalassa salva 66 migranti in acque libiche. Salvini: Non può approdare in Italia’, Rai News, 10 July 2018, available at www.rainews.it/dl/rainews/articoli/migranti-viminale-blocca-nave-italiana-68de2e9d-7c63-4b4e-a44e-f5e78a437dae.html.

118 ‘Salvini to demand closure of Italian ports to “international mission” migrant ships’, The Local, 8 July 2018, available at www.thelocal.it/20180708/salvini-to-demand-closure-of-ports-to-international-migrant-ships.

119 K. Malik, ‘Hostility to migrants is not born of rising numbers but a failure of hope’, Guardian, 1 July 2018, available at www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/01/european-union-migration-crisis-survey-on-attitudes-to-migrants.

121 Besides the open investigation in Malta against the captain of the MV Lifeline, Italy has served investigation warrants vis-à-vis 20 NGO volunteers of MSF, Save the Children, and Jugend Rettet: A. Ziniti, ‘Inchiesta Ong, 20 nuovi avvisi di garanzia per la Juventa, Msf e Save the children. Procura: “Non fini illeciti, solo scopi umanitari"’, Repubblica, 10 July 2018, available at www.repubblica.it/cronaca/2018/07/10/news/juventa_venti_nuovi_avvisi_di_garanzia_ad_un_anno_dal_sequestro_della_nave_della_ong_tedesca-201408731/. For an overview of SAR NGO criminalization see FRA, ‘2019 update - NGO ships involved in search and rescue in the Mediterranean and criminal investigations’, June 2019, available at fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2019/2019-update-ngos-sar-activities.

122 In addition to the MV Lifeline, impounded in Malta, and MV Sea Watch 3, not permitted to depart from Valetta, the MV IUVENTA was the first SAR NGO vessel to be seized by Italy in 2017: F. viviano and A. Ziniti, ‘Migranti, procura Trapani sequestra nave Iuventa: “Intese tra Ong tedesca e trafficanti"’, Repubblica, 2 August 2017, available at www.repubblica.it/cronaca/2017/08/02/news/migranti_codice_ong_in_vigore_fermata_nave_in_mare_per_controlli-172151820/. For a counter-factual reconstruction see Forensic Oceanography, ‘Blaming the Rescuers: The IUVENTA Case’, available at blamingtherescuers.org/iuventa/.

123 UNCLOS, Art. 19(1), (2)(g).

124 UNCLOS, Art. 21(1)(h).

125 For commentary see R. Barnes, ‘Article 25: Rights of protection of the coastal State’, in A. Proelss (ed.), The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: A Commentary (2017), 223.

126 Smuggling Protocol, Art. 6(2), (4).

127 UNCLOS, Art. 18(2).

128 Corfu Channel, supra note 13, para. 215. See also T. Treves, ‘Human Rights and the Law of the Sea’, (2010) 28 Berkeley Journal of International Law 1, at 3.

129 UNCLOS, Art. 19(1) (emphasis added).

130 UNCLOS, Art. 21(1). See also UNCLOS, preamble, last paragraph, and Art. 293.

131 Cf. A. Chircop, ‘Ships in Distress, Environmental Threats to Coastal States, and Places of Refuge: New Directions for an Ancien Regime?’, (2002) 33 Ocean Development & International Law 207; A. Chircop and O. Linden (eds.), Places of Refuge for Ships: Emerging Environmental Concerns of a Maritime Custom (2006).

132 For the time being there has not been any such accusation by Malta, but this has been the approach taken in similar cases in Italy. See, e.g., the Open Arms case, supra note 98.

133 Smuggling Protocol, Arts. 1(3), 3(a), 4, 6.

134 Trafficking Protocol, Arts. 1(1), 3(a), 4, 5.

135 Maltese Criminal Code, Ch. 9 of the Laws of Malta, Arts. 248A–248E, punishing ‘traffic’, available at justiceservices.gov.mt/DownloadDocument.aspx?app=lom&itemid=8574&l=1. See also Maltese Immigration Act, Ch. 217 of the Laws of Malta, Arts. 5–25, regulating the situation of ‘prohibited migrants’.

136 VCLT, Art. 27.

137 ‘MV Lifeline arrives, migrants disembark after Malta-brokered 8-nation agreement’, Malta Independent, 27 June 2018, available at www.independent.com.mt/articles/2018-06-27/local-news/MV-Lifeline-on-its-way-to-Senglea-will-dock-shortly-6736192557.

138 UNCLOS, Art. 97(3) (emphasis added).

139 ‘Italy migrant row: “Inhumane” Malta refuses rescue ship’, BBC News, 22 June 2018, available at www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44571150.

140 UNCLOS, Arts. 94(1), (2)(a).

141 UNCLOS, Art. 91(1).

142 UNCLOS, Art. 94(6) (emphasis added).

143 For a detailed summary of court proceedings see K. S. Orland, ‘MV Lifeline captain charged with entering Maltese waters on unlicensed vessel, bail given’, Malta Independent, 2 July 2018, available at www.independent.com.mt/articles/2018-07-02/local-news/MV-Lifeline-captain-arrives-in-court-for-hearing-6736192797.

144 ‘Malta detains second migrant rescue ship as hundreds die at sea’, The New Arab, 3 July 2018, available at www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/7/3/malta-detains-rescue-ship-as-hundreds-die-at-sea.

145 Code of Conduct for NGOs Undertaking Activities in Migrants’ Rescue Operations at Sea, July 2017 (noting that each organization has agreed its own modifications), available at www.avvenire.it/c/attualita/Documents/Codice%20ONG%20migranti%2028%20luglio%202017%20EN.pdf. For analysis see C. Gombeer and M. Fink, ‘NGOs and Search and Rescue at Sea’, (2018) 4 MarSafeLaw Journal 1. Cf. V. Moreno-Lax, ‘“Nonsensical”, “Dishonest”, “Illegal”: the Code of Conduct’, Sea Watch Interview, 24 July 2017, available at sea-watch.org/en/nonsensical-dishonest-illegal-the-code-of-conduct/.

146 See references in note 122 and FRA table of cases in note 121.

147 UNCLOS, Art. 98(2).

148 UNCLOS, Art. 98(1).

149 SOLAS, Ann., Ch. V, Reg. 7(1); SAR, Preamble, Recitals 1 and 3, and Ann., para. 2.1.1.

150 UNCLOS, Art. 98(1).

151 SOLAS, Ann., Ch. V, Reg. 33(1) (emphasis added). SAR, Ann., para. 1.3.11, defining the ‘distress phase’ as ‘[a] situation wherein there is a reasonable certainty that a vessel or a person is threatened by grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance’, whatever the source of knowledge or information. This is confirmed by SAR, Ann., para. 2.1.9, establishing that ‘[o]n receiving information [from whatever source] that a person is in distress at sea in an area within which a Party provides for the overall co-ordination of search and rescue operations, the responsible authorities of that Party shall take urgent steps to provide the most appropriate assistance available’ (emphasis added).

152 1965 Convention on the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention), 591 UNTS 265, Standard 7.8.

153 ‘Malta detains second migrant rescue ship as hundreds die at sea’, The New Arab, supra note 144.

154 Malta RCC email to MV Lifeline, 24 June 2018 (on file with the authors).

155 Libyan Navy email to MV Lifeline, 25 June 2018 (on file with the authors).

156 Gombeer and Fink, supra note 145, at 15 ff.

157 UNCLOS, Art. 89.

158 UNCLOS, Arts. 90, 92(1).

159 SOLAS, Ann., Ch. V, Reg. 34-1 (emphasis added).

160 SOLAS, Ann., Ch. V, Reg. 33(2) (emphasis added). According to SAR, Ann., para. 5.3.3.5: ‘Upon the declaration of the distress phase, the rescue co-ordination centre … shall request at an early stage any help which might be available from aircraft, vessels or services not specifically included in the search and rescue organization, considering that, in the majority of distress situations in ocean areas, other vessels in the vicinity are important elements for search and rescue operations’ (emphasis added).

161 Ibid.

162 SAR Convention, Ann., para. 3.1.9 (2004 Amendments).

163 Gombeer and Fink, supra note 145, at 17.

164 ECtHR, Drozd & Janousek v. France and Spain, Appl. 12747/87, 26 June 1992, para. 91; ECtHR, Loizidou v. Turkey (Preliminary Objections), Appl. 15318/89, 23 March 1995, para. 62.

165 For an elaboration see Moreno-Lax, supra note 60, Ch. 8 and references therein.

166 ECtHR, Al-Skeini v. United Kingdom, Appl. 55721/07, 7 July 2011, para. 136.

167 ECtHR, N.T. & N.D. v. Spain, Appls 8675/15 and 8697/15, 7 July 2015, para. 54, on the effect of the Melilla fence; ECtHR, Women on Waves v. Portugal, Appl. 31276/05, 3 February 2009, on a ‘contactless’ blockade at the rim of Portuguese territorial waters.

168 Cf. The HRC speaks of ‘impact’ of state conduct on the rights of all persons subject to its jurisdiction, that is, ‘all persons over whose enjoyment of the right[s] [concerned] it exercises power’, including ‘persons located outside any territory effectively controlled by the State, whose [rights are] nonetheless impacted by its military and other activities’ (emphasis added), in General Comment No. 36, supra note 57, para. 63. This provides a much broader scope of actions and omissions that may trigger responsibility under international law.

169 Gombeer and Fink, supra note 145, at 18.

170 Amuur, supra note 62, para. 43; M.S.S., supra note 63, para. 216; Hirsi, supra note 68, para. 133 et seq.

171 See reports by OHCHR and others, supra note 100.

172 M.S.S., supra note 63, paras 258–9, 263, 358–9, 366–7; Hirsi, supra note 68, paras. 118, 123, 125–6, 156–7.

173 On the importance of knowledge of foreseeable consequences see Moreno-Lax and Giuffré, supra note 69, referring to M.S.S., supra note 63 and Hirsi, supra note 68.

174 See also ECtHR, Leray v. France, Appl. 44617/98, 16 January 2001, where the Strasbourg court concluded that SAR operations are susceptible to judicial review in light of the right to life. For an elaboration see L.-M. Komp, ‘The Duty to Assist Persons in Distress: An Alternative Source of Protection against the Return of Migrants and Asylum Seekers to the High Seas?’, in Moreno-Lax and Papastavridis, supra note 1, at 236.

175 S. Trevisanut, ‘Is There a Right to be Rescued? A Constructive View’, (2004) 4 QIL 3, 9–11. See also Moreno-Lax, supra note 37. Cf. E. Papastavridis, ‘Is There a Right to be Rescued? A Skeptical View’, (2004) 4 QIL 17.

176 Conseil Constitutionnel, Décision n° 2018-717/718 QPC du 6 juillet 2018. See also B. Jeannerod, ‘France’s Top Court Shows Us That Helping Migrants Is Not a Crime’, Human Rights Watch, 10 July 2018, available at www.hrw.org/news/2018/07/10/frances-top-court-shows-us-helping-migrants-not-crime.

177 For a detailed analysis of the incident see M. Crock and D. Ghezelbash, ‘Do Loose Lips Bring Ships?: The Role of Policy, Politics and Human Rights in Managing Unauthorised Boat Arrivals’, (2010) 19 Griffith Law Review 238.

178 Offshore processing and maritime interdiction were used until 2007. Offshore processing was reintroduced in 2012, and maritime interdiction in 2013 as part of Operation Sovereign Borders discussed below. For an analysis of maritime interdiction and offshore processing between 2001 and 2007, see Ghezelbash, supra note 6, Ch. 5.

179 ‘The Coalition’s Operation Sovereign Borders Policy’, Liberal Party of Australia and The Nationals, July 2013, available at sievx.com/articles/OSB/201307xxTheCoalitionsOSBPolicy.pdf. Note that this is a cached version as the original policy document was removed from the Party websites at the start of the 2016 election campaign.

180 Schloenhardt and Craig, supra note 3, at 548.

181 See the details of push-back operations collated from media reports in Schloenhardt and Craig, ibid., at 550–89.

182 The return of migrants by a warship or coast guard vessel to the territorial sea of another state, without authorization, does not fall under the exception of innocent passage. See Section 2.1, infra.

183 Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Australia and the Government of Sri Lanka concerning Legal Cooperation against the Smuggling of Migrants, 9 November 2009, available at www.ag.gov.au/RightsAndProtections/FOI/Documents/MOU%20with%20Sri%20Lanka%20on%20the%20Smuggling%20of%20Migrants.PDF; The MOU between Australia and Vietnam is not publicly available, but see ‘Australia and Vietnam further Cooperation to Stamp out People Smuggling’, Ministry of Home Affairs Media Release, 12 December 2016, available at minister.homeaffairs.gov.au/peterdutton/Pages/Australia-and-Vietnam-further-cooperation-to-stamp-out-people-smuggling.aspx. Generally on ‘consensual containment’, see Moreno-Lax and Giuffré, supra note 69.

184 For a detailed examination of Australia’s offshore processing policies see B. Opeskin and D. Ghezelbash, ‘Australian Refugee Policy and its Impacts on the Pacific’, (2016) 36 Journal of Pacific Studies 73.

185 Namah v. Pato [2016] PJSC 13 (Supreme Court of Justice, Papua New Guinea).

186 Although it should be noted that no new arrival has been transferred to PNG or Nauru since July 2014.

187 See, e.g., Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Government of Australia, relating to the Settlement of Refugees in Cambodia, 26 September 2014, available at www.refworld.org/docid/5436588e4.html; M. Turnbull and P. Dutton, ‘Refugee Resettlement from Regional Processing Centres’, Media Release, 13 November 2016, available at parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressrel%2F4934737%22.

188 Suspected Irregular Entry Vessels (SIEVs) are allocated an identifying number by the Department in order of date of arrival.

189 E. Griffiths, ‘Scott Morrison says Government won’t reveal when asylum seekers boats turned back’, ABC News, 24 September 2013, available at www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-23/government-won27t-reveal-when-boats-turned-back/4975742.

190 Attempts to have the government release this information through Freedom of Information provisions have proved largely unsuccessful. See Re Secretary, Department of Immigration and Border Protection and Paul Farrell, [2017] AAT.

191 CPCF, supra note 7; ‘Defendants’ Chronology’, Submission in CPCF v. Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, No S169 of 2014, 30 September 2014; ‘Plaintiff’s Chronology’, Submission in CPCF v. Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, No S169 of 2014, 11 September 2014.

192 Defendants’ Chronology, ibid., at 2. Originally there were 37 children and 32 women identified among 153 Tamil asylum seekers on board: Transcript of Proceedings, JARK v. Minister for Immigration and Border Protection [2014] HCATrans 148, at 12; This was later increased to 157 people including 50 children: Transcript of Proceedings, CPCF v. Minister for Immigration and Border Protection [2014] HCATrans 164, at 6; see also Schloenhardt and Craig, supra note 3, at 556.

193 Transcript of Proceedings, supra note 192, at 12.

194 Ibid., at 12–14.

195 Defendants’ Chronology, supra note 191, at 1; Plaintiff’s Chronology, supra note 191, at 25.

196 Defendants’ Chronology, ibid., at 2–3; Plaintiff’s Chronology, ibid., at 1–2.

197 Defendants’ Chronology, ibid., at 3.

198 Ibid., at 4.

199 Ibid.

200 P. Gregoire, ‘After Four Weeks at Sea 157 Asylum Seekers Have Landed in Australia’, Vice, 28 July 2014, available at www.vice.com/en_au/article/5gkwn8/after-four-weeks-at-sea-157-asylum-seekers-have-landed-in-australia.

201 Ibid.

202 J. Om, ‘Asylum Seekers: A Timeline of the Case Involving 157 Tamil Asylum Seekers Intercepted at Sea’ ABC News, 14 October 2014, available at www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-04/timeline-157-asylum-seekers-intercepted-at-sea/5647852.

203 See, e.g., ‘Sri Lankan Asylum Seeker Tells of Terror on Nauru: “If I am Sent back I Will Kill Myself”’, Guardian, 3 February 2016, available at www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/feb/03/sri-lankan-asylum-seeker-tells-of-terror-on-nauru-if-i-am-sent-back-i-will-commit-suicide.

204 Also note that they later claimed that their actions were also justified under the executive power. For an examination of the ramifications of this argument see B. Tomasi, ‘Variation on a Theme: CPCF v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection [2015] HCA 1’, (2015) 39 University of Western Australia Law Review 426.

205 MPA, Secs. 9, 41(1)(c).

206 Explanatory Memorandum to the Maritime Powers Bill 2012 (Cth), 38.

207 MPA, Secs. 52–3.

208 Ibid., Sec. 59(1).

209 Ibid., Sec. 69.

210 Ibid., Sec. 71, 72(4).

211 Ibid., Sec. 72(5).

212 The court found that the geographical limitation in Sec. 41 no longer applied once this factual scenario occurred. This is now provided for in Sec. 75D of the Migration and Maritime Powers Amendment Act.

213 The term ‘migration zone’ in Sec. 8 of the MPA has the same meaning as in Sec. 5(1) Migration Act 1958 (Cth).

214 CPCF, supra note 7.

215 Lim (1992) 176 CLR 1, 33–4 (Brennan, Deane and Dawson JJ); CPCF, supra note 7, para. 196 (Crennan J).

216 CPCF, supra note 7, paras. 46–50.

217 Ibid., paras. 205–7.

218 Ibid., paras. 360–1.

219 MPA, Sec. 29.

220 The SOLAS Convention and the SAR Convention entered into force for Australia on 17 November 1983 and 22 June 1985 respectively. See IMO, Status of Multilateral Conventions, 6 July 2018, available at www.imo.org/en/About/Conventions/StatusOfConventions/.

221 Navigation Act 2012 (Cth), Sec. 11.

222 Ibid., Sec. 10.

223 Australian Maritime Safety Authority Act 1990 (Cth), Secs. 6(1), 6(5).

224 The National Search and Rescue Manual is a reference document of standardized procedures promulgated by the Australian National Search and Rescue Council (NATSAR).

225 See Letter of Promulgation by Vice Admiral DL Johnston, 21 December 2017, reproduced in National Search and Rescue Manual (AMSA, February 2018), 3.

226 National Search and Rescue Manual, ibid., at 7.2.1.

227 M. Ratcovich, ‘The Concept of “Place of Safety”: Yet Another Self-Contained Maritime Rule or a Sustainable Solution to the Ever Controversial Question of Where to Disembark Migrants Rescued at Sea?’, (2015) 33 Australia YBIL 81, at 125–6; B. Miltner, ‘Irregular Maritime Migration: Refugee Protection Issues in Rescue and Interception’, (2006) 30 Fordham International Law Journal 75, at 87; Ghezelbash, supra note 64, at 323; Dastyari, supra note 30, at 89–93.

228 IMO Guidelines, supra note 42. While not binding, the guidelines are relevant in interpreting the obligations set out in the UNCLOS, SOLAS and SAR conventions.

229 SOLAS, Ann., Ch. V, Reg. 33(1-1); SAR Convention, Ann., Ch. 3, para. 3.1.9.

230 IMO Guidelines, para. 6.13.

231 IMO Guidelines, para. 6.14.

232 IMO Guidelines, para. 6.13 (emphasis added).

233 Dastyari, supra note 30, at 91; Moreno-Lax, supra note 37.

234 IMO Guidelines, 6.13; UNHCR, Rescue at Sea: A Guide to Principles and Practice as Applied to Migrants and Refugees (undated), at 7, available at www.unhcr.org/450037d34.pdf.

235 Dastyari, supra note 30, at 91.

236 SOLAS Convention, Ann., Ch. V, Reg. 33.1.1; SAR Convention, Ann., Ch. 3, para. 3.1.9.

237 IMO Guidelines, paras. 2.3–2.5.

238 Similar scenarios have arisen in the past in the Mediterranean on account of the overlapping SRRs of Italy and Malta, with Lampedusa, although part of Italian territory, lying in closer proximity to Malta, further compounding rescue co-ordination activities. See, e.g., the MV Budafel tuna pen affair as reported in ‘UN rebuke as governments squabble over immigrants found clinging to tuna nets’, Guardian, 29 May 2007, available at www.theguardian.com/world/2007/may/29/libya.johnhooper.

239 Ibid., para. 6.17.

240 CPCF, supra note 7, para. 1.

241 Moreno-Lax, supra note 60, Ch. 10 and references therein.

242 See Schloenhardt and Craig, supra note 3, at 568. See also S. H. Legomsky, ‘Secondary Refugee Movements and the Return of Asylum Seekers to Third Countries: The Meaning of Effective Protection’, (2003) 15 IJRL 567, at 629–64. These principles are also set out in UNHCR, Summary Conclusions on the Concept of ‘Effective Protection’ in the Context of Secondary Movements of Refugees and Asylum-Seekers (Lisbon Expert Roundtable, 910 December 2002) (February 2003). Cf. V. Moreno-Lax, ‘The Safe Third Country Notion Contested: Insights from the Law of Treaties’, in G. S. Goodwin-Gill and P. Weckel (eds.), Migration & Refugee Protection in the 21st Century: Legal Aspects (2015), 665.

243 J. C. Hathaway, The Rights of Refugees Under International Law (2005), 300–1; G. S. Goodwin-Gill and J. McAdam, The Refugee in International Law (2007), 215. Cf. Moreno-Lax, supra note 60, Ch. 9 on the combined effect of the right to leave any country and the prohibition of non-refoulement as giving rise to a legally-binding entitlement to access asylum.

244 Goodwin-Gill and McAdam, supra note 243, at 277; Moreno-Lax, supra note 37.

245 CPCF, supra note 7, paras. 2040–70.

246 Ibid.

247 ICCPR, Art. 9(1).

248 HRC, ‘General Comment No 35: Article 9 (Liberty and Security of Person)’, (2014) CCPR/C/GC/35, 18.

249 Ibid. See further, V. Moreno-Lax, ‘Beyond Saadi v UK: Why the “Unnecessary” Detention of Asylum Seekers is Inadmissible under EU Law’, (2011) 5 HR&ILD 166.

250 HRC, Comm. 1134/2002, Gorji-Dinka v. Cameroon, 17 March 2005, para. 5.1; Comm. 305/1988, van Alphen v. Netherlands, 23 July 1990, para. 5.8.

251 The High Court did not directly address the conditions of detention in CPCF, supra note 7. The main issue was false imprisonment, and, thus, the analysis focused on whether the government had a legal basis for the detention.

252 On fragmentation see ILC Report, supra note 8.

253 A state commits an internationally wrongful act ‘when conduct consisting of an action or omission: (a) is attributable to the State under international law; and (b) constitutes a breach of an international obligation of the State’. Art 2, International Law Commission’s Articles on State Responsibility, reprinted in J. Crawford, The International Law Commission’s Articles on State Responsibility (2002), 81.

254 Kolb, supra note 9.

255 For a concrete proposal and further references see Moreno-Lax, supra note 10. See also Klein, supra note 8, at 807–13; notes 11 and 15 on VCLT, Art. 31(3)(c) and systemic integration at large.

256 Australian Government, 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, Chs. 4, 6, available at www.fpwhitepaper.gov.au/foreign-policy-white-paper; Art. 3(5), Treaty on European Union, [2010] OJ C 83/1.

257 Medvedyev, supra note 37, para. 81.

258 Dispute concerning the ‘Enrica Lexie’ Incident (Italy v India), Request for Provisional Measures, para. 84, available at www.pcacases.com/pcadocs/Request/Italys%20Request%20for%20Provisional%20Measures.pdf.

* The authors are respectively: Senior Lecturer in Law, Queen Mary University of London, SAROBMED Coordinator, and lead counsel in ECtHR, S.S. and Others v. Italy, Appl. 21660/18 (pending) and C.O. and A.J. v. Italy, Appl. 40396/18 (pending) with the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN); Senior Lecturer in Law, Macquarie University; and Professor of Law, University of New South Wales. This research was supported by the HSS Collaborative Fund of Queen Mary University of London, financing the SAROBMED project sarobmed.org/ through which the factual information regarding the MV Lifeline was collected, and by a Macquarie University Research Development Grant.

Keywords

Between life, security and rights: Framing the interdiction of ‘boat migrants’ in the Central Mediterranean and Australia

  • Violeta Moreno-Lax (a1), Daniel Ghezelbash (a2) and Natalie Klein (a3)

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