IMO and IOM Pledge Migration Action

Sekimizu and Swing

Published Jun 29, 2015 6:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

The heads of the IMO and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reaffirmed their commitment to urgently address the humanitarian crisis arising from the dramatic increase in unsafe mixed migration across the oceans and seas in recent times on Monday.

IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu and IOM Director-General William L. Swing met at IMO Headquarters in London and observed a minute’s silence in honor of the thousands of migrants who have lost their lives on perilous journeys. They reiterated their concern about the loss of life, injury, trauma and serious human rights’ violations affecting migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees travelling by sea.

In a joint statement on enhanced cooperation and collaboration between the two Organizations, Sekimizu and Swing recognized the need for concerted global action to address this major challenge to the international community. 

They pledged to work together on a number of specific actions, including the establishment of an inter-agency platform for information sharing on unsafe mixed migration by sea and the dissemination of information material on the dangers of such migration in collaboration with other interested agencies.

They agreed to facilitate discussions to find solutions to unsafe migration by sea and urged the international community to take robust measures against people smugglers “who operate without fear or remorse and who deliberately and knowingly endanger the lives of thousands of migrants at sea.”

The IMO and IOM heads also agreed to promote the relevant provisions of the IMO treaties addressing the safety of life at sea, search and rescue and facilitation of maritime traffic and to promote international migration law. 

They agreed to support the relevant technical cooperation programs of each organization and set up case-specific technical or advisory bodies as needed. 

Sekimizu and Swing’s meeting follows a series of discussions at IMO on unsafe mixed migration by sea, including a special session on the matter held during the Maritime Safety Committee’s 95th session (MSC 95) earlier in June; consideration during the Legal Committee (LEG 102) in April; and the inter-agency High-Level Meeting to Address Unsafe Mixed Migration by Sea, hosted by IMO in March 2015.

Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) Founder, David Hammond, has welcomed the news. Speaking from Malta where HRAS is meeting with local NGOs undertaking migrant operations, Hammond said: “The increasing focus of the IMO in looking at the migrant issue is strongly welcomed. It is key to the future dealings of the shipping community, not just with making the humanitarian and legal decision to rescue those individuals in peril at sea, but in terms of planning vessel routes, providing temporary facilities onboard, providing logistical and medical support, undertaking Deprivation of Liberty of suspected criminals where appropriate, as well as reviewing all necessary crew training for dealing with such eventualities wherever in the world these rescue operations may take place.”

The reality is that global migration as a maritime issue is something that is not going away, says Hammond. HRAS is seeing increasing movements of displaced persons through Central Africa for example, and where it is currently conducting studies. Migrant and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) movement is not south, but northwards through the Sahel and Sahara regions heading for the Mediterranean. 

“Mass rescue at sea is no longer the exception, but will soon become a norm. The IMO will therefore be one of the key organizations at the forefront of safety and technical support to the maritime industry in response to this emerging trend.”

The joint statement by IMO and IOM is available here.