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10 - International migration by sea and air

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2012

Brian Opeskin
Macquarie University, Sydney
Richard Perruchoud
International Organisation for Migration
Jillyanne Redpath-Cross
International Organisation for Migration
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The plight of migrants travelling by sea was graphically highlighted at the end of 2010 with the destruction of a vessel and attempted rescue of predominantly Middle Eastern asylum seekers in waters off the Australian territory of Christmas Island. Of the men, women, children and babies on board, few knew how to swim and many did not have life jackets. Approximately fifty people died before they could be reached by the Royal Australian Navy. This incident was far from unique. In May 2011, a vessel from Libya carrying 600 Somali asylum seekers, including children, was reported as having sunk before reaching Italy. Many comparable incidents have occurred in Mediterranean crossings in recent years. These tragedies reflect the desperate measures that will be undertaken as migrants journey to resettle in a new State.

When considering the voyages undertaken by migrants across land, air and sea, it is hard to deny the very human factor involved in international migration, as people endure risks, sacrifices and hardships. The role of law is often intimately connected with the difficulties that migrants face. The movement of people by sea and air between States entails an intricate legal framework of rights and duties associated with people leaving and entering States, the conditions of carriage, and responsibilities associated with incidents that may occur during the course of passage. For migrants, the legal processes involved provide an additional complication to the physical and emotional challenges, as States seek to preserve their sovereign right to determine who may enter their territory (see Chapter 5).

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

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