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Irregular migration across the Mediterranean Sea: an analysis of safety and security regulatory measures.

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The phenomenon of ‘irregular migration’ by sea or ‘boat migration’ is not new, however, it has only recently caught the public’s attention since the Mediterranean ‘migration crisis’ in 2015. Historically, travelling by sea has been a dangerous journey for migrants and today, images of gruesome scenes of death in the Mediterranean Sea reveal the risks of ‘irregular migration’. This study was prompted by the need to provide insight into irregular migration at sea from the viewpoint of the irregular migrant by focusing on the perils and risks that are faced by irregular migrants on their journeys across the Mediterranean Sea. The aims and objectives of this study were to critically analyse the current legal framework that seeks to protect irregular migrants from the risks faced on their voyage across the Mediterranean Sea and to evaluate the gaps and shortcomings in this respect. The study shows that although the crisis of 2015 led to spikes in the death toll, the Mediterranean Sea is still a deadly route for irregular migrants today. This fact is followed by findings of all the safety and security risks faced by irregular migrants. Having identified all the safety and security risks faced at sea, the study goes on to discuss and analyse the legal framework in place that offers protection to irregular migrants from these risks. The protection available is then critically analysed and protection gaps as well as other shortcomings are identified. Following the findings and protection gaps, recommendations are made that creating a new binding legislation may be necessary and if not, then the existing legal framework should be amended. The existing legal framework should be amended so that it is more comprehensive and clarifies the definitions and content of certain key terms that adversely affect the protection available to irregular migrants.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.