Publication Details

Bateman, S. (2013). Explainer: the law of the sea and asylum seekers. The Conversation, (13 November)

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The Conversation


Prime minister Tony Abbott said on Monday he expects Jakarta to take responsibility for the asylum seekers that Australian authorities rescue in Indonesia’s search and rescue zone. He claims this is the international law of the sea – but this is only half right.

What the law of the sea actually says on this issue can be found in the 2006 amendments to the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, known as the SAR Convention. The amendment to Chapter Three of the convention says the country responsible for the region in which the search and rescue takes place shall take responsibility for co-ordinating efforts to have survivors disembarked from the assisting ship and delivered to a place of safety as soon as possible. This includes ensuring the rescuing vessel suffers minimum deviation from its intended voyage.