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?
Australian Year Book of International Law, Vol. 33, 2015
53 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2017 Last revised: 17 Nov 2017
Date Written: 2015
International law requires that everyone rescued at sea shall be disembarked and delivered to a ‘place of safety’. However, neither the treaties that establish this requirement nor any other treaties define what is meant by ‘place of safety’. When refugees and migrants are rescued at sea considerations of international human rights law and international refugee law as well as of international law against transnational organised crime are of principal concern. This article examines the concept of 'place of safety' and argues that it needs to be interpreted in the wider context of international law, so that other relevant and applicable rules of international law are taken into account. The article provides an exploratory discussion of the interpretation of the concept of 'place of safety,' seen particularly against the background that many of those rescued at sea are refugees and migrants. It also comprises discussions of the duty to rescue those in distress at sea, the basic rules on interpretation of treaties and the legal framework for rescue of migrants at sea. The analysis is illustrated by references to Australian legislation, state practice and case law.
Keywords: International law; international law of the sea; maritime law; international human rights law; international refugee law; refugees; migrants; disembarkation; non-refoulement; maritime search and rescue; place of safety
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