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Rescue at Sea meeting in Lisbon

Briefing notes

Rescue at Sea meeting in Lisbon

22 March 2002

UNHCR is holding a meeting of experts next week (25-26 March) on the highly topical subject of rescue at sea. The meeting is being co-hosted by a Washington-based think-tank, the Migration Policy Institute, and will be held at the headquarters of the Fundacão Luso-Americana paro o Desenvolvimento in Lisbon. Government experts, NGOs, academics and international organizations such as the International Maritime Organization, as well as representatives of the shipping industry, will take part in the two-day meeting. The main aims of the roundtable, which is part of UNHCR's Global Consultations process (now in its second year), include looking at ways of ensuring that the time-honoured maritime tradition of rescuing people in peril on the high seas is preserved, while at the same time trying to find solutions to some of the new dilemmas that have arisen in recent years such as the increase in the smuggling and trafficking of refugees and migrants. The roundtable will attempt to fill some of the gaps that exist in the current legal framework, for example over the establishment of clear criteria for determining the appropriate port of call for disembarkation after people have been rescued. Issues surrounding rescue at sea have grown increasingly important over the past few months with an increase in incidents such as the boat carrying more than 900 people which arrived in Sicily earlier this week, and the controversy surrounding the Tampa incident last autumn.