The Skuld P&I Club issues advisory re refugee boats in Australian Water
The Skuld P&I Club has issued Advisory regarding refugee boats in Australian Waters as there continues to be a significant issue of Refugees and Migrants seeking to reach Australia by way of the sea route. As many news reports over the last few years have confirmed, this is unfortunately a very dangerous journey having lead to many tragedies, including significant loss of life.
The “legal” position in respect of saving life at sea and the right to disembark persons may be summarised as follows :
- ships are required to save persons in a mayday situation – ie imminent danger of loss of life or to the viability of the vessel itself. Broadly speaking, it is the skipper of the vessel in distress who determines whether the circumstances are a ‘mayday’ or not – so the skipper of the ‘saving’ ship is in the legal position of more or less having to accept there is a mayday situation on the vessel asking to be rescued and there may be consequences if he mistakenly takes the view the ‘mayday’ was not “valid”;
- there is no clear international law on what ‘rights’ the saving ship has to disembark those people who are saved and whilst international “convention” was that the ship had a right to disembark those persons either their home port, the nearest port or the next port they would ordinarily go to on the voyage (at the Master’s option), clearly many countries do not accept that : particularly where the persons rescued are suspected of seeking to claim Asylum rights or are “deemed” to be migrants – in either case difficult political situations may be involved;
- many countries (including Australia) have a policy of NOT accepting Refugees if they have been to another country ‘on the way’ to the final country of desired destination- so in the case of Refugees who were picked up by a ship at the request of MRCC AustraliaDO NOT TAKE THEM TO ANOTHER COUNTRY UNLESS YOU ARE 100% SURE THEY WILL BE ACCEPTED, because if you are wrong, you may not be able to bring them to Australia after you ‘fail’ to disembark them elsewhere.
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