Challenges to the Counter-Migrants Smuggling Regime in the Mediterranean Sea

Hebrew University of Jerusalem Legal Research Paper 18-23

Hebrew University of Jerusalem International Law Forum Working Series 02-18

45 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2018 Last revised: 1 Jun 2018

Date Written: February 2, 2018


With the influx of migration flows by sea into Europe in recent years, there is also there is also a high fatality rate due to the difficulties and unsafe conditions created by the maritime routes which increases each year. The lack of legal routes for refugees and migrants to each Europe leaves no choice for many people but to turn to smugglers and traffickers, at enormous cost and danger to their lives.

This paper seeks to analyze the ways in which states, international organizations and private actors can deal with the phenomenon of migrants and asylum-seekers arriving by sea, often illegally, aided by smugglers, and reduce, if not prevent, the high fatality on maritime routes. The main argument in this paper is that despite a detailed legal framework, composed of different fields of international law there are two main problems; the first is that while there are numerous norms and obligations, stemming from different relevant fields of international law and that can be applied at sea, there is no specific cohesive regime for counter-smuggling (of any kind) at sea. The second prominent problem is that despite the detailed and complex regime, there is still high level of fatality by maritime routes due to the difficulties to comply with the obligation and incomplete protection for migrants and refugees at sea.

This paper's conclusion is that there are some factors that affect compliance with the obligations set forward by the legal regime. The paper suggests that the overflow of international norms and obligations creates obscurity that makes it hard to understand what exactly are the obligations regarding the protection of asylum-seekers and migrants at sea and how to comply with these obligations. The paper will try to offer possible solutions that will help to promote better compliance with the obligations relating to migrant smuggling at sea, and thus reduce the high level of fatality of migrants, caused by traveling through maritime routes.

Keywords: migrants smuggling, Mediterranean Sea, compliance, fragmentation of international law

Suggested Citation

Friedman, Shani, Challenges to the Counter-Migrants Smuggling Regime in the Mediterranean Sea (February 2, 2018). Hebrew University of Jerusalem International Law Forum Working Series 02-18. Available at SSRN: or

Shani Friedman (Contact Author)

independent ( email )

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