Home > About Us > The High Commissioner > High Commissioner's Dialogue > High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges, 2014

High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges, 2014

About Us
© UNHCR/A.Rodriguez/24October2007

Protection at Sea

The seventh High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Challenges took place on 10-11 December 2014 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on the theme of "Protection at Sea." The informal gathering came at a time when too many people are losing their lives around the globe by embarking on perilous sea journeys in a bid to escape persecution, conflict, instability and poverty. Many are people of concern to UNHCR, including refugees, asylum-seekers and others. The Dialogue informed implementation of a two-year Global Initiative on Protection at Sea, which aims to support state action to limit loss of life at sea as well as exploitation, abuse and violence. The initiative also seeks to ensure that responses to mixed migration by sea are sensitive to the international protection needs of specific individuals and groups.

The Dialogue brought together delegations from 88 countries, 52 NGOs, and 13 IGOs as well as academics and experts. In total, some 450 people participated, making it the largest Dialogue to date. During the two-day meeting, the heads of UNHCR, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) issued a joint statement calling upon states to rigorously tackle the root causes of maritime migration, which include lack of access to safe and regular migration channels. The statement said that without credible alternative options to escape desperation, people will continue to risk their lives by making unsafe irregular boat journeys across the high seas.

In a mix of plenary sessions, breakout discussions and regional roundtables, the Dialogue fostered a focused exchange of views on issues such as rescue and disembarkation, addressing the drivers of irregular movements by sea, as well as international cooperation to share burdens and responsibilities, particularly at regional level. The outcomes of the Dialogue are summarized in High Commissioner Refugees Antonio Guterres's closing remarks as well as the reports of the breakout sessions, delivered in the final plenary session. The outcomes can be accessed on this page. UNHCR will, in 2015, present a work programme to it governing body to follow-up on the main recommendations.



Opening Panel on Play video

Opening Panel on "Boat People in the twenty-first Century"

High Commissioner's Dialogue : Stream of the first part of the opening plenary on 10 December 2014

UNHCR: Looking for Safe ShoresPlay video

UNHCR: Looking for Safe Shores

2014 has been a record year for movements by sea with desperate people take terrifying risks for the slimmest chance to reach safer lands.

Malta: Dying at Europe's DoorstepPlay video

Malta: Dying at Europe's Doorstep

Angelina Jolie, our Special Envoy, travelled to Malta and met three people who risked everything to reach safety.

Italy: Desperate Rescue at SeaPlay video

Italy: Desperate Rescue at Sea

Tens of thousands are fleeing from the North African coast, seeking safety in Europe via a dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossings. Many are Syrian refugees, many others come from Sub-Saharan Africa - all risk their lives.

Italy: Haunted by a Sinking Ship Play video

Italy: Haunted by a Sinking Ship

"Every time I try to sleep I see what I saw in the water, what happened to me, the dead children"

Thamer & Thayer, brothers from Syria, escaped war, then unrest in Libya only to be faced with death on the Mediterranean

The Lampedusa boat tragedies sparked a debate on asylum policies in Europe, leading Italian authorities to launch a search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea. Called Mare Nostrum, the operation had rescued more than 63,000 people at the time this video was published in July 2014.