The WMU Symposium on Migration by Sea


Migration tracks straddle Planet Earth. What has defined the essence of civilisational growth and fall poses in today's globalised world a baffling humanitarian, political and socio-economic crisis. According to the latest figures collected by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are an estimated 232 million international migrants, and 740 million internal migrants in the world. By the end of 2014, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) accounted for 54.95 million persons of concern, including over 14 million refugees. These figures are expected to witness a significant increase in the wake of ongoing conflicts in Syria, and the wider Middle East, as well as climatic change and other pressures felt across the globe.

Against this backdrop, the WMU Symposium on Migration by Sea, which will be hosted by the World Maritime University (WMU) at its headquarters in the Swedish city of Malmö on 26-27 April 2016, in partnership with the University of Genoa (Università degli Studi di Genova - UNIGE), seeks to address the maritime dimension of international migration. The sea is one of the most dangerous routes for migration. For 2015, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees records 950,469 arrivals by sea in the Mediterranean region alone as at 16 December 2015. Of that number, 3,605 were reported dead or missing. Elsewhere, approximately 94,000 migrants are estimated to have departed by sea from Bangladesh and Myanmar in early 2014, and 31,000 departures by sea were recorded in the first half of 2015.

Migrants are frequently forced to turn to smugglers and human traffickers, at enormous cost and danger to their lives, often on board unseaworthy ships or dinghies.
In commenting on this situation, the former Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Mr Koji-Sekimizu, said in August 2015: 'Not only are these activities illegal ... they are also carried out with a callous disregard for human life and a total disrespect for any of the internationally accepted standards for safety of life at sea, developed and adopted by IMO.'

On 9 October 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2240 (2015) authorising Member States for a period of one year to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya which they have reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from that country.

Migration by sea requires an integrated approach that takes into account the adequacy and the application of current international legal and policy instruments—as well as shipping practices, in the realm of safety and security at sea, maritime search and rescue, salvage, migrants smuggling, human trafficking and human rights.


The WMU Symposium on Migration by Sea will provide an international forum for an exchange of information and for advancing knowledge on migration and, in particular, on migration by sea, with a view to exploring the complex issues and challenges that arise, and the lessons learnt.


Tuesday 26 April 2016

Opening and welcome (1300-1430)
Session 1 - Assessment of Migration by Sea (1430-1530): This session will present the overall situation of migration, and the data and trends relating to migration by sea at the global and regional scene. A panel discussion will be included.
Session 2 - Human Rights in Relation to Migration (1600-1800): This session is focused on the applicability of human rights norms and standards in relation to migration. Maritime case studies will be featured, eg, duty to render assistance, right for asylum.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Session 3 - Migrants and Human Trafficking by Sea (0900-1100): This session will address selected issues relating to organised criminality which nurtures and abets the sea migration crisis.
Session 4 - Migration by Sea: Safety and Security Aspects (1130-1330): This session will address selected issues of maritime safety (e.g., search and rescue) and security (e.g., defence, terrorism) related to migration by sea.
Session 5 - The International Law Related to Liability and Insurance (1430-1630): This session will deal with questions of liability and compensation, insurance, as well as salvage award entitlements, which may arise in relation with the rescuing of migrants at sea (or lack of it).
Wrap-up and cconclusions (1630-1700)