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People with Life Jackets

International law and maritime migration

Duty Bound

October 2018, Number 08.04

“In 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe had surpassed 300,000 that year, up from 219,000 in 2014. The UNHCR also said that “2,500 refugees and migrants are estimated to have died or gone missing this year while attempting the crossing to Europe — compared to 3,500 who died or went missing in the Mediterranean in 2014.” Italy had established the search and rescue operation Mare Nostrumin 2013, offering migrants medical treatment, shelter, food and even legal assistance. But Mare Nostrum ended in October 2014 “because it was an emergency operation,” Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said. In July 2017, refugees traveling on a lifeboat from Morocco to Spain were feared drowned in the Mediterranean, and only three were confirmed alive. The 49 probable deaths makes it the deadliest incident in the Western Mediterranean in 2017. In August 2017, the German nongovernmental organization Sea-Eye ended its rescue operations on the Mediterranean because of security concerns, citing an “explicit threat against the private NGOs” from the Libyan government...”

Excerpt from Melina Lito, “Duty Bound,” per Concordiam: Journal of European Security Defense Issues 8, No. 4, 2018: 34-37.

Melina Lito is an international human rights attorney with experience in international security, conflict prevention and United States-based immigration law. She has provided strategic guidance to nongovernmental organizations and government stakeholders, and is an expert on nuclear and conventional disarmament, gender issues related to peace and security, genocide prevention, and criminal accountability for sexual exploitation and abuse. Lito has been an advisor with the Permanent Mission of Albania to the United Nations, a legal advisor to the nonprofit Global Action to Prevent War, a teacher at the United Nations-mandated University of Peace, and the founder of an international law advisory and mediation firm specializing in human rights, humanitarian law and international security issues.

This article reflects the views of the author and are not necessarily the official policy of the United States, Germany, or any other governments.