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The Principle of Non-Refoulement And the De-Territorialization of Border Control at Sea


Destination states of irregular migration aim to prevent arrivals by controlling their borders outside their territory, specifically on the high seas. This practice may best be described as the de-territorialization of border control at sea. The de-territorialization impacts the applicable legal framework, in particular the safeguards to which individuals submitted to the control activities are entitled. This article posits that the principle of non-refoulement is a fundamental yardstick for the de-territorialization of border control and applies wherever competent state authorities perform border control measures. The argument develops in four steps. After outlining the content of the principle of non-refoulement, this article defines maritime borders and elucidates their functional nature. It then outlines how the principle of non-refoulement applies at sea and translates into a ‘principle of non-rejection at the maritime frontier’. The article finally highlights the principle's legal and practical consequences in the context of de-territorialized border control.

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1 We refer to the Indochinese crisis in relation to the movement of refugees coming from the former French Indochina in consequence of armed conflict situations, as in Vietnam, and the emergence of the dictatorial regime, as in Cambodia. A. Lakshmana Chetty, ‘Resolution of the Problem of Boat People: The Case of A Global Initiative’, (2001) 1 ISIL Yearbook of International Humanitarian and Refugee Law 144.

2 We refer again to the above mentioned Indochinese crisis (Opening Statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in Consultative Meeting with Interested Governments on Refugees and Displaced Persons in South East Asia, Geneva, 11–12 December 1978, available at <>), but also to the two Haitian crises (see, inter alia, S. H. Legomsky, ‘The USA and the Caribbean Interdiction Program’, (2006) 18 International Journal of Refugee Law 677) and the Albanian crisis in the late Nineties (de Guttry, A. and Pagani, F. (eds.), La Crisi Albanese del 1997 (1999)).

3 For a comment on Australian policy and recent practice, see S. Taylor and B. Rafferty-Brown, ‘Waiting for Life to Begin: The Plight of Asylum Seekers Caught by Australia's Indonesian Solution’, (2010) 22 International Journal of Refugee Law 558; T. Wood and J. McAdam, ‘Australian Policy All at Sea: Analysis of Plaintiff M70/2011 v. Minister for Immigration and Citizenship and the Australia–Malaysia Arrangement’, (2012) 61 ICLQ 274.

4 For instance, the so-called Arab Spring in 2011 heightened the number of departures from Libya and Tunisia; see Frontex, ‘FRAN Quarterly, Issue 3, July–September 2011’, at 12, available at <>.

5 Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly, ‘Lives Lost in the Mediterranean Sea: Who is Responsible’, Resolution 1872 (2012), 24 April 2012; UNCHR, ‘Mediterranean Takes Record as Most Deadly Stretch of Water for Refugees and Migrants in 2011’, Briefing Notes, 31 January 2012.

7 The UNHCR defines ‘interception’ as ‘one of the measures employed by States to i. prevent embarkation of persons on an international journey; ii. prevent further onward international travel by persons who have commenced their journey; iii. or assert control of vessels where there are reasonable grounds to believe the vessel is transporting persons contrary to international or national maritime law; where, in relation to the above, the person or persons do not have the required documentation or valid permission to enter; and that such measures also serve to protect the lives and security of the travelling public as well as persons being smuggled or transported in an irregular manner’; UNCHR ExCom, Conclusion No. 97 (LIV) 2003.

8 The analysis of the patrolling activities in the territorial waters of third states (on the basis of an agreement) will be excluded from the scope of the present article because, even if they give rise to interesting legal issues (e.g. the complicity of the intervening state with the territorial state for human rights violations, alleged violations of the right to seek asylum and the right to emigrate), it is not relevant in order to assess the application of the principle of non-refoulement in the context of migration by sea. In those instances, the migrants have not yet left the territory of the state of origin or residence; thus, they are still submitted to its jurisdiction. In those instances, violations of the right to emigrate might be perpetrated; see Harvey, C. and Barnidge, R. P. Jr., ‘Human Rights, Free Movement, and the Right to Leave in International Law’, (2007) 19 International Journal of Refugee Law 1; Juss, S., ‘Free Movement and the World Order’, (2004) 16 International Journal of Refugee Law 289.

9 Brölmann, C., ‘Deterritorialization in International law: Moving Away from the Divide Between National and International Law’, in Mijman, J. and Nollkaemper, A. (eds.), New Perspectives on the Divide Between National and International Law (2007), at 86.

10 See below section 3.1.1.

11 On the issue, see inter alia, Baldaccini, A., ‘Extraterritorial Border Controls in the EU: The Role of Frontex in Operation at Sea’, in Ryan, B. and Mitsilegas, V. (eds.), Extraterritorial Immigration Control: Legal Challenges (2010) 229; E. Guild and D. Bigo, ‘The Transformation of European Border Control’, ibid., at 257, where the authors refer to a policy of ‘remote control’; J. Rijpma and M. Cremona, The Extra-Territorialisation of EU Migration Policies and the Rule of Law (EUI Law Working Paper, No. 2007/01), 1–24.

12 See Brölmann, supra note 9, at 97.

13 See, inter alia, Barnes, R., ‘Refugee Law at Sea’, (2004) 53 ICLQ 47; Frelick, B., ‘“Abundantly Clear”: Refoulement’, (2004–5) 19 Georgetown Immigration Law Journal 245; Legomsky, supra note 2; Pallis, ‘Obligations of States towards Asylum Seekers at Sea: Interactions and Conflicts between Legal Regimes’, (2002) 14 International Journal of Refugee Law 329.

14 UNHCR ExCom, supra note 7.

15 Many articles in newspapers and books, as well as many documentaries have denounced in the last years the violence and the abuses intercepted migrants endure once forcibly redirected to the country of origin or transit. See, inter alia, W. Wheeler and A. Oghanna, ‘After Liberation, Nowhere to Run’, New York Times Sunday Review, 30 October 2011, available at <>; the blog Fortress Europe, available at <>; F. Gatti, Bilal. Viaggiare, Lavorare, Morire da Clandestini (2008).

16 189 UNTS No. 150 137; the 1951 Refugee Convention originally applied only to refugees generated in Europe because of events which occurred before 1 January 1951. The 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (606 UNTS No. 8791) eliminated those limits of time and place. Reference here to the 1951 Refugee Convention is intended as amended by the 1967 Protocol.

17 See, inter alia, Allain, J., ‘The Jus Cogens Nature of Non-Refoulement’, (2001) 13 International Journal of Refugee Law 533; T. Gammeltoft-Hansen, Access to Asylum: International Refugee Law and the Globalisation of Migration Control (2011), at 45; G. S. Goodwin-Gill, ‘The Right to Seek Asylum: Interception at Sea and the Principle of Non-Refoulement’, (2011) 23 International Journal of Refugee Law 443; J. C. Hathaway, The Rights of Refugees under International Law (2005), at 279; Lauterpacht, E. and Bethlehem, D., ‘The Scope and Content of the Principle of Non-Refoulement: Opinion’, in Feller, E., Türk, V., and Nicholson, F. (eds.), Refugee Protection in International Law, UNHCR's Global Consultations on International Protection (2003), at 87; Noll, G., ‘Seeking Asylum at Embassies: A Right to Entry under International Law?’, (2005) 17 International Journal of Refugee Law 542; Trevisanut, S., ‘The Principle of Non-Refoulement at Sea and the Effectiveness of Asylum Protection’, (2008) 12 Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law 210; UNHCR, Advisory Opinion on the Extraterritorial Application of Non-Refoulement Obligations under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, Geneva, 26 January 2007.

18 See the Protocol against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNGA Res. 55/25, 15 November 2000). For a comment, see inter alia, Obokata, T., ‘The Legal Framework Concerning the Smuggling of Migrants at Sea under the UN Protocol on the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air’, in Ryan, B. and Mitsilegas, V. (eds.), Extraterritorial Immigration Control: Legal Challenges (2010), at 157.

19 ECtHR, Case of Hirsi Jamaa and others v. Italy, Application No. 27765/09, Judgment of 23 February 2012. For comments, see inter alia, Giuffrè, M., ‘Watered-Down Rights on the High Seas: Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy (2012)’, (2012) 61 ICLQ 728; den Heijer, M., ‘Reflections on Refoulement and Collective Expulsion in the Hirsi Case’, (2013) 25 International Journal of Refugee Law 265; Papanicolopulu, I., ‘European Convention of Human Rights – Article 3 – torture or degrading treatment – forcible repatriation of asylum seekers – collective expulsion – right to a remedy’, (2013) 107 AJIL 417; Papastavridis, E., ‘European Convention on Human Rights and the Law of the Sea: The Strasbourg Court in Unchartered Waters?’, in Fitzmaurice, M. and Merkouris, P. (eds.), The Interpretation and Application of the European Convention of Human Rights: Legal and Practical Implications (2012) 117; Tondini, M., ‘The Legality of Intercepting Boat People Under Search and Rescue and Border Control Operations: With Reference to Recent Italian Interventions in the Mediterranean Sea and the ECtHR Decision in the Hirsi Case’, (2012) 18 Journal of International Maritime Law 59.

20 Gammeltoft-Hansen, supra note 17, at 14.

21 Ibid., at 44; Lauterpacht and Bethlehem, supra note 17, at 90.

22 Salerno affirms that the principle of non-refoulement entails the individual right of entry and stay in the territory for the time needed in order to have his/her status ascertained (‘nel caso degli asilanti, il principio di non refoulement si congiunge con il diritto dell’individuo ad entrare e permanere nel territorio dello Stato per quanto necessario all’espletamento della procedura corredata delle necessarie garanzie giurisdizionali’); see Salerno, F., ‘L’Obbligo Internazionale di non Refoulement dei Richiedenti Asilo’, (2010) 4 Diritti Umani e Diritto Internazionale 487, at 502. This approach has been partly confirmed by the ECtHR in the Hirsi case (supra note 19).

23 Not considered here are issues related to the application of the principle of non-refoulement in situations of expulsion from the territory of the hosting state after the decision of the competent authorities to not admit the individual to the relevant procedures, or after the refusal of granting refugee status; these situations encompass other legal problems and consequences apart from the phenomenon of sea-borne asylum seekers. On the principle of non-refoulement in general and on expulsion situations, see G. S. Goodwin-Gill and J. McAdam, The Refugee in International Law (2007), at 257; Hathaway, supra note 17, at 370; F. Lenzerini, Asilo e Diritti Umani, L’Evoluzione del Diritto d’Asilo nel Diritto Internazionale (2009), at 335.

24 Noll, supra note 17, at 548 (emphasis added).

25 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, supra note 16; see UNHCR, supra note 17, at 2 (emphasis added).

26 On the concept of persecution, see, inter alia, M. Bettati, L’Asile Politique en Question. Un Statut pour les Réfugiés (1985), at 10; Carlier, J.- Y., ‘Et Genève Sera . . . La Définition du Réfugié: Bilan et Perspectives’, in Chetail, V. (ed.), La Convention de Genève du 8 Juillet 1951 Relative au Statut des Réfugiés 50 ans Après: Bilan et Perspectives (2001) 63, at 67; Fitzpatrick, J., ‘Revitalizing the 1951 Convention’, (1996) 9 Harvard Human Rights Journal 229, at 239; Ramos, L. M., ‘A New Standard for Evaluating Claims of Economic Persecution Under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees’, (2011) 44 Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 499; K. Röhl, ‘Fleeing Violence and Poverty: Non-Refoulement Obligation under the European Convention of Human Rights’, UNHCR Working-Paper No. 111, January 2005, at 4; V. Türk and F. Nicholson, ‘Refugee Protection in International Law: An Overall Perspective’, in Feller, Türk, and Nicholson (eds.), supra note 17, 3, at 38; UNHCR, Handbook on Procedure and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugee (1992), para. 51.

27 See Goodwin-Gill and McAdam, supra note 23, at 289. Lauterpacht and Bethlehem have argued that the notion of threat contemplated in Art. 33(1) may be ‘broader than simply the risk of persecution, . . . to the extent that a threat to life or freedom that may arise other than in consequence of persecution’, thus enlarging the scope of Art. 33 to refugees not included in the treaty definition of Art. 1; Lauterpacht and Bethlehem, supra note 17, at 124.

28 ‘[P]ersons not recognized as refugees within the meaning of Article 1 of the [Refugee] Convention [and who are] unable or unwilling for political, racial, religious or other valid reasons to return to their countries of origin’, see Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Recommendation No. 773 (1976) on the Situation of de facto Refugees, para. 1.

29 For a historical overview of the ‘complementary protection’, see Goodwin-Gill and McAdam, supra note 23, at 286.

30 K. Wouters, International Legal Standards for the Protection from Refoulement (2009) at 49.

31 Art. 2 of United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (21 ILM 1276, hereinafter LOSC): ‘1. The sovereignty of a coastal State extends, beyond its land territory and internal waters and, in the case of an archipelagic State, its archipelagic waters, to an adjacent belt of sea, described as the territorial sea. 2. This sovereignty extends to the air space over the territorial sea as well as to its bed and subsoil. 3. The sovereignty over the territorial sea is exercised subject to this Convention and to other rules of international law’.

32 Art. 33 LOSC: ‘1. In a zone contiguous to its territorial sea, described as the contiguous zone, the coastal State may exercise the control necessary to: (a) prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations within its territory or territorial sea; (b) punish infringement of the above laws and regulations committed within its territory or territorial sea’.

33 Many articles of the 1951 Refugee Convention actually contain a territorial criterion concerning their scope of application (e.g. the legal presence or stay of the refugee in the host state; the physical presence of the refugee in the host state).

34 See Goodwin-Gill and McAdam, supra note 23, at 246; Hathaway, supra note 17, at 160; Trevisanut, supra note 17, at 210.

35 Some authors consider that the extraterritorial application of the principle of non-refoulement entails the recognition of a de facto right of admission in the destination state and such a consequence was explicitly excluded from the 1951 Geneva Convention (for a comment, see Gammeltoft-Hansen, supra note 17, at 63–4). But, as already mentioned, the practice of both states and international bodies does not confirm such a conclusion, even when the principle of non-refoulement was applied extraterritorially.

36 A/RES/217(III) of 10 December 1948. The UDHR is not formally binding in nature, but most of the norms contained have progressively acquired the status of customary law and, consequently, bind the members of the international community.

37 de Zayas, A., ‘Migration and Human Rights’, (1994) 62 Nordic Journal of International Law 243, at 245; Grahl-Madsen, A., ‘Article 13’, in Eide, A. et al. (eds.), The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A Commentary (1992), at 212.

38 A/RES/2312(XXII) of 14 December 1967.

39 ‘Asylum is viewed as an “act of grace by States” and the refusal of States to accept an obligation to grant asylum is “amply evidenced” by the history of international conventions and other instruments’, Pallis, supra note 13, at 341. See also Harvey and Barnidge, supra note 8.

40 A/RES/39/46 of 10 December 1984.

41 A/RES/XXI/2200 of 16 December 1966.

42 Committee against Torture, JHA v. Spain (Marine I), No. 323/2007, 21 November 2008, para. 8.2. This case concerned the interdiction programme carried out by Spain along the coasts of Mauritania; for a comment, see Wouters, K. and Den Heijer, M., ‘The Marine I Case: A Comment’, (2009) 21 International Journal of Refugee Law 31.

43 213 UNTS No. 2886.

44 1144 UNTS No. 17995.

45 58 ILM (1982) 21.

46 75 UNTS No. 287.

47 See Allain, supra note 17, at 533; Greig, D. W., ‘The Protection of Refugees and Customary International Law’, (1983) 8 Australian Yearbook of International Law 106; Lauterpacht and Bethlehem, supra note 17, at 87; Mathew, P., ‘Sovereignty and the Right to Seek Asylum: The Case of the Cambodian Asylum-Seekers in Australia’, (1994) 15 Australian Yearbook of International Law 35; Salerno, supra note 22, at 502; Trevisanut, supra note 17, at 215.

48 The extraterritorial application of the principle of non-refoulement was submitted to judicial scrutiny in front of the US Supreme Court in the famous case Sale v. Haitian Centres Council, Inc. (21 June 1993, 32 ILM (1993) 1039). This case concerned the interception and redirection of Haitian migrants on the high seas by the US Coast Guard in the late Eighties. The Supreme Court excluded the application of Art. 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention beyond the territory of the state. It reached this conclusion on the basis of a restrictive interpretation of the term ‘return’ in Art. 33(1) invoking that the French word ‘refouler’ encompasses terms as ‘repulse’, ‘repel’, ‘drive back’, and ‘expel’. But the term ‘repulse’ itself encompasses the terms ‘reject’ and ‘repel’, actions not necessarily requiring prior entry into the territory. Consequently, to refuse to apply the principle of non-refoulement on the high seas seems to be unjustified. This case law has so far remained isolated. See Castrogiovanni, I., ‘Sul Refoulement dei Profughi Haitiani Intercettati in Acque Internazionali’, (1994) 77 Rivista di Diritto Internazionale 478; Legomsky, supra note 2; Trevisanut, supra note 17, at 243.

49 See ECtHR, Case of Hirsi Jamaa and others v. Italy, supra note 19.

50 Trattato di Amicizia, Partenariato e Cooperazione [Treaty of Friendship, Partnership and Co-operation between Italy and Libya], in Gazzetta Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana [Official Journal of the Italian Republic] No. 40 of 18 February 2009. The Treaty does not explicitly provide for pushback operations, but it reaffirms the co-operation in relation to the fight against irregular migration, which also includes the organization of joint patrols and which was created in the former agreements concluded by the two countries in 2000 and 2007. The legal basis and thus the legality of the pushback operations raises many criticisms. See, inter alia, De Vittor, F., ‘Soccorso in Mare e Rimpatri in Libia: Tra Diritto del Mare e Tutela Internazionale dei Diritti dell’uomo’, (2009) 92 Rivista di Diritto Internazionale 806; Giuffrè, M., ‘State Responsibility Beyond Borders: What Legal Basis for Italy's Push-backs to Libya?’, (2012) 24 International Journal of Refugee Law 692, at 703; N. Ronzitti, ‘Il Trattato Italia–Libia di Amicizia, Partenariato e Cooperazione’, Istituto di Affari Internazionali (IAI), Contributi di Istituti di Ricerca Specializzati No. 108, January 2009; Terrasi, A., ‘I Respingimenti in Mare di Migranti alla Luce della Convenzione Europea dei Diritti Umani’, (2009) 3 Diritti Umani e Diritto Internazionale 591; Trevisanut, S., ‘La Collaborazione Italia – Libia in Materia di Contrasto all’Immigrazione Clandestina Via Mare: Profili di Diritto del Mare’, (2009) 3 Diritti Umani e Diritto Internazionale 609.

51 ECtHR, Saadi v. Italy, Application No. 37201/06, Judgment 28 February 2008.

52 ECtHR, Case of Hirsi Jamaa and others v. Italy, supra note 19, para. 133

53 Ibid., para. 157.

55 Ibid., para. 122.

56 C. Blumann, ‘Frontières et Limites’, in Société Française pour le Droit International, Colloque de Poitiers, La Frontière (1980) 1, at 3. The author highlights how the notion of a frontier gained an affective dimension, and was not perceived any more as merely a utilitarian link with the nation-state, from the Renaissance; ibid., at 4.

57 Ibid. See also P. de Lapradelle, La Frontière (1928), at 57: ‘Travaillant à la formation de l’unité nationale, les gouvernements se sont aperçus de la valeur absolue que représentait pour leur fin politique le sol national, et ils ont consacré cette utilité en construisant une théorie du domaine ou du territoire’.

58 See De Lapradelle, supra note 56, at 230; Distefano, G., Les Compétences Territoriales, in Chetail, V. and Haggenmacher, P. (eds.), Vattel's International Law in a XXIst Century Perspective (2011) 211, at 232; V. Prescott, and G. D. Triggs, International Frontiers and Boundaries, Law, Politics and Geography (2008), at 56.

59 ‘Cette ligne [la frontière] est inéluctable, elle correspond à la structure atomistique de la société internationale. Souvent critiquée par les prophètes et les poètes qui y voient un point de rupture entre les hommes, elle constitue au contraire un extraordinaire facteur d’ordre et de paix sociale’, Blumann, supra note 56, at 8. See also E. de Vattel, Le Droit des Gens ou Principes de la Loi Naturelle (1758), Vol. I, at 137. The frontier plays a role of peacekeeping or peacebuilding in modern and contemporary times. The Security Council of the League of Nations, for example, emphasized the peacemaking function of border delimitation in the Balkans in 1924 (Question de la Frontière entre l’Albanie et le Royaume des Serbes, Croates et Slovènes, Vingtième Séance, 3 Octobre 1924, Société des Nations – Journal Officiel, October 1924, 1378). Another example is the Eritrea–Ethiopia Boundary Commission created by the Peace Treaty of Algiers in 2000, which has played a fundamental role in the peace process.

60 1155 UNTS No. 18232.

61 For instance, the fundamental principle of self-determination of people was not applied in post-colonial Africa in order to maintain the traced borders; see Blumann, supra note 56, at 13.

62 1946 UNTS No. 3356.

63 Carrasco, M. Márquez, ‘Régimes de Frontières et Autres Régimes Territoriaux Face à la Succession d’Etats’, in Eisemann, P. M. and Koskenniemi, M. (eds.), La Succession d’Etats: La Codification à l’Épreuve des Faits (2000) 493, at 494.

64 Art. 2.4 UN Charter: ‘All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations’.

65 See Márquez Carrasco, supra note 63, at 510.

66 Permanent Court of Arbitration, Norway v. Sweden, Judgment of 23 October 1909, Recueil des Sentences Arbitrales, vol. XI, at 159: ‘[d’après les] principes fondamentaux du droit des gens, tant ancien que moderne, . . . le territoire maritime est une dépendance nécessaire d’un territoire terrestre’.

67 England v. Norway, Judgment 18 December 1951, International Court of Justice, ICJ Rep. 1951, at 133.

68 Germany v. Denmark, Germany v. Netherlands, Judgment 20 February 1969, International Court of Justice, ICJ Rep. 1969, para. 96, at 51.

69 C. Schmitt, Land and Sea, translation (1997), at 25.

70 Miller, H., ‘The Hague Codification Conference’, (1930) 24 AJIL 674.

71 21 ILM 1276.

72 ‘[T]he extent of the territorial jurisdiction does not coincide with the territory of the State. Typically, it acquires a functional nature when it extends to the contiguous zone [Art. 33 LOSC], where the coastal state can exercise jurisdiction in relation to . . . immigration matters’; M. Gavouneli, Functional Jurisdiction in the Law of the Sea (2007), at 10.

73 It does not matter here whether the interception measure started as a search and rescue operation. The relevant facts to be taken into consideration are that the rescued persons were irregular migrants and that they were redirected to the country of origin or an unsafe territory.

74 See the operations performed on the basis of the aforementioned Treaty of Friendship between Italy and Libya (supra note 51).

76 On the IBM, see inter alia, S. Carrera, Towards a Common European Border Service? (CEPS Working Document, No. 331, June 2010), 1–39; Corrado, L., ‘Negotiating the EU External Borders’, in Carrera, S. and Balzacq, T. (eds.), Security versus Freedom: A Challenge for Europe's Future (2006) 183; Mitsilegas, V., ‘Border Security in the European Union: Towards Centralised Controls and Maximum Surveillance’, in Baldaccini, A., Guild, E. and Toner, H. (eds.), Whose Freedom, Security and Justice? EU Immigration and Asylum Law and Policy (2007), 359.

77 We mean by legislative jurisdiction ‘the jurisdiction to prescribe rules’; see Papastavridis, E., ‘Enforcement Jurisdiction in the Mediterranean Sea: Illicit Activities and the Rule of Law on the High Seas’, (2010) 25 International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 569, at 575–7.

78 I. Brownlie, Principles of Public International Law (2003), at 297. See also, inter alia, Lowe, V. and Staker, C., ‘Jurisdiction’, in Evans, M. (ed.), International Law (2010), 313; Simma, B. and Müller, A. T., ‘Exercise and Limits of Jurisdiction’, in Crawford, J. and Koskenniemi, M. (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to International Law (2012), 134.

79 See ECtHR, Case of Hirsi Jamaa and others v. Italy, supra note 19, para. 78.

80 Pursuant to Art. 92 LOSC, ‘Ships shall sail under the flag of one State only and, save in exceptional cases expressly provided for in international treaties or in this Convention, shall be subject to its exclusive jurisdiction on the high seas’ (emphasis added). Contemporary international law does not use any territorial fiction; jurisdiction on vessels is exclusively based on the nationality link. For a deeper analysis pertaining to the application of human rights instruments at sea, see Besson, S., ‘The Extraterritoriality of the European Convention on Human Rights: Why Human Rights Depend on Jurisdiction and What Jurisdiction Amounts too?’, (2012) 25 LJIL 857, at 874–6; Cacciaguidi, S.-Fahy, ‘The Law of the Sea and Human Rights’, (2007) 19 Sri Lanka Journal of International Law 85; M. Milanovic, Extraterritorial Application of Human Rights Treaties: Law, Principles, and Policy (2011), at 160 ff.; Oxman, B. H., ‘Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea’, in Charney, J., Anton, D.K., and O’Connell, M.E. (eds.), Politics, Values and Functions, International Law in the 21st Century, Essays in Honor of Professor Louis Henkin (1997), 377404; Papastavridis, supra note 19; P. Tavernier, ‘La Cour Européenne des Droits de l’Homme et la Mer’, in La Mer et son Droit, Mélanges Offerts à Laurent Lucchini et Jean-Pierre Quéneudec (2003) 575–89; Treves, T., ‘Human Rights and the Law of the Sea’, (2010) 28 Berkeley Journal of International Law 114; Vukas, B., ‘Droit de la Mer et Droits de l’Homme’, in Cataldi, G. (ed.), La Mediterranée et le Droit de la Mer à l’Aube du 21e Siècle (2002), 8595.

81 See Lauterpacht and Bethlehem, supra note 17, 87–179.

82 Art. 31: ‘The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of Article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence’. See Hathaway, supra note 17, at 386; the author asserts, commenting on Art. 31, that ‘[p]erhaps the most important innovation of the 1951 Refugee Convention is its commitment to the protection of refugees who travel to a State party without authorization’.

83 See supra note 1.

84 UNHCR ExCom, Conclusion No. 22 (XXXII) 1981; reaffirmed during the crisis in former Yugoslavia, in UNHCR ExCom, Conclusion No. 74 (XLV) 1994, para. (r) (emphasis added).

85 See supra note 38.

86 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, 1001 UNTS No. 14691.

87 See Lauterpacht and Bethlehem, supra note 17, at 113; P. Weis, The Refugee Convention, 1951, The Travaux Préparatoires Analysed (1995), at 342.

88 UNHCR ExCom, Conclusion No. 6 (XXVIII) 1979, para. (c): ‘the fundamental importance of the observance of the principle of non-refoulement – both at the border and within the territory of a State’.

89 UNHCR ExCom, Conclusion No. 15 (XXX), para. (c).

90 A. Fischer-Lescano, T. Löhr, and T. Tohidipur, ‘Border Control at Sea: Requirements under International Human Rights and Refugee Law’, (2009) 21 International Journal of Refugee Law 256; Gammeltoft-Hansen, supra note 17, at 45–6, 61.

91 See supra note 19.

92 See Trevisanut, supra note 17, at 244.

93 On the duty to render assistance in relation to migratory flows, see Papastavridis, E., ‘Interception of Human beings on the High Seas: A Contemporary Analysis under International Law’, (2009) 36 Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce 145; Lax, V. Moreno, ‘The EU Regime on Interdiction, Search and Rescue, and Disembarkation: The Frontex Guidelines for Intervention at Sea’, (2010) 25 International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 621; Trevisanut, S., ‘Search and Rescue Operations in the Mediterranean: Cooperation or Conflict Factor?’, (2010) 25 International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 523.

94 UNHCR, IMO, Rescue at Sea, A Guide to Principles and Practice as Applied to Migrants and Refugees (2007).

* Assistant Professor of International Law, Utrecht University, School of Law; [].

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