Border Controls at Sea: Requirements under International Rights and Refugee Law

Legal Opinion, September 2007

By Dr. Andreas Fischer-Lescano and Dr. Tillmann Löhr

mediterranean
The EU agency FRONTEX has designed an illegal defence that clearly violates the Human and Refugee Rights obligations of all EU countries with regard to immigrants. Amnesty International, the Foundation Pro Asyl and the German Human Rights Forum requested an evaluation of the current situation from ECCHR, which was then presented on 27 September 2007, the National Day of Refugees. Dr. Andreas Fischer-Lescano and Tillmann Löhr are responsible for the following critical statement.

EU border guards are bound to respect Refugee and Human Rights, even if they operate outside the territories of EU member states. This includes international waters beyond the 12-mile zone. Therefore, refugees found on boats in international waters also have the right to apply for asylum. Deportation in this situation is never allowed if a refugee seeking asylum could be exposed to persecution or mistreatment upon deportation.

Between 100,000 and 120,000 migrants cross the Mediterranean illegally each year en route to Europe: 35,000 of these migrants are from sub-Saharan Africa; 55,000 from the southern and eastern Mediterranean regions and 30,000 from other regions (especially from Asia and the Middle East). It is estimated that within the last 10 years, over 10,000 migrants drowned while attempting this journey.

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