WMU Migration by Sea Symposium Addresses Complex Issues

Malmo, Sweden – 28 April 2016 The WMU Migrationby Sea Symposium took place at the World Maritime University (WMU) in Malmo, Sweden from 26 to 27 April in partnership with the University of Genoa (Università degli Studi di Genova – UNIGE) and with support from the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The event brought together speakers from the IMO, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Labor Organization (ILO), the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS), FRONTEX, and from Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Peru, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States as well as over 200 participants to discuss the complex issue of migration by sea.

After a moment of silence to remember the many lives lives lost in the perilous journey by sea, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, WMU President, delivered welcome remarks highlighting the ongoing tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea noting that both the IOM and the UNHCR reported around one million people arrived in the European Union in 2015 through the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and that nearly 4,000 persons were dead or missing. “It is our hope that this discussion in an academic environment can make a small contribution to identifying the issues and allowing for an exchange of information and ideas as well as strategies for a longer-term solution to these significant challenges facing our world in the 21st century,” stated the President.

In 2016, numbers of migrants by sea are already soaring and the President spoke of the tragedy reported by UNHCR last week that up to 500 people died when an overcrowded boat capsized en route from Libya to Europe. “There is a clear and urgent need to bring the perpetrators of the acts to justice,” stated the President noting the position taken by the United Nations Security Council on 23 April 2016 emphasizing the need for better coordination of efforts to deal with the smuggling of migrants.

With a wide array of speakers and topics, the symposium explored the complex issues and challenges of migration by sea as well as the lessons learnt. Forthright discussions on the sensitive topic resulted in a unique event that took into account the migration by sea crisis from a variety of perspectives. Topics covered included trends and data connected with migratory flows, legal and operational inadequacies, international human rights law, international humanitarian law, refugee law, maritime safety and security, organized crime, and international maritime law relating to liability and insurance.

Several speakers noted that for various reasons the history of mankind has repeatedly seen mass migration of people by land and sea. An overarching theme was the need to address the root causes that lead so many people from particular regions to undertake such a dangerous sea journey. It was also important to remember support needed for those involved in search and recue operations, including seafarers.

Michael Grey, Former Editor of Lloyd’s List and Fairplay moderated the event and noted in his summary remarks that migration by sea remains one of the great tragedies of our time and that the symposium revealed a picture that is invariably more complex than it first appeared. Mr. Grey also stated that although mass migration is not a new phenomenon, “our response to the suffering of displaced or vulnerable people, and our treatment of them in 2016 marks our humanity.”


About the organizing partners

The World Maritime University (WMU) and the University of Genoa (UNIGE) have joined together in organizing this international event.

World Maritime University

The World Maritime University (WMU) in Malmo, Sweden is a postgraduate maritime university founded in 1983 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations. The aim of WMU is to further enhance the objectives and goals of IMO and IMO Member States through education, research, and capacity building on maritime and ocean-related affairs to ensure safe, secure, and efficient shipping on clean oceans. WMU is truly an organization by and for the international maritime community.

University of Genoa

The University of Genoa (UNIGE) is one of the most ancient of the European large universities; with about 280 educational paths distributed in the headquarters in Genoa and the learning centres of Imperia, Savona and La Spezia. Located at the heart of a superb city, offering splendours of its medieval and baroque heritage and the site of the largest and most productive harbour in Europe, the University of Genoa is one of the most renowned multidisciplinary public universities in Italy, with peaks of excellence in several scientific and technological domains. The University of Genoa is a leader in dealing with the challenges of the present and the future.