Migration crisis on the maritime routes: international law issues

The seminar will discuss the situation of migration in the Central Mediterranean from different legal perpectives. 

Refugees in high sea (Illustration: Colourbox).


  • Kristina Siig, University of Southern Denmark 
  • Fenella Billing, University of Aalborg
  • Birgit Feldtmann, University of Aalborg

About the seminar:

The EU’s response to the North African migration crisis generates controversy as irregular migrants continue to die in the Central Mediterranean while states struggle to prioritise maritime security interests and fight migrant smugglers at the same time as upholding humanitarian and safety obligations. Influenced by the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights on the extraterritorial application of non-refoulement to rescue of survivors on the high seas, the dilemma has revealed itself in various related contexts. States must resolve the issue of where to disembark refugees and other irregular migrants following search and rescue operations at sea.

Non-refoulement by proxy

Assisting merchant vessels also grapple with the problem of realizing speedy and safe disembarkation while following the counter-instructions of coastal states to disembark survivors in countries such as Libya – states circumventing non-refoulement by proxy.

Moreover, states’ efforts to return migrants result in the humanitarian involvement of NGOs such as Médecins San Frontières or Seawatch being blocked by zonal and responsibility disputes, even to the point of threats of violence or prosecution.

Complex international legal overlap

The situation of migration in the Central Mediterranean thus lies at the centre of a complex international legal overlap involving the law of the sea, transnational criminal law cooperation, international human rights and refugee law and the law of state responsibility.

In addition to presentations, there will be time for discussion and questions.


The programme (pdf) can be found here.

Tags: Migration, Refugees, Refugee and Asylum Law, Humanitarian Law
Published Oct. 30, 2018 12:02 PM - Last modified Nov. 16, 2018 4:01 PM