The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) is campaigning for the implementation of a Humanitarian Assistance Zone in the Mediterranean as a response to the migrant crisis. Tanker owners are likely to find themselves under renewed pressure as more migrants seek to make their passage to Europe as the summer months approach. But there is another way.
Lawyer Michael Kingston, working in a voluntary capacity with the ICS, is advocating the implementation of a Humanitarian Assistance Zone in the Mediterranean. Writing in the Irish Times, Mr Kingston says a mechanism exists to put in place a Humanitarian Assistance Zone on the north African coast, through the Inter-Agency Standing Committee of the United Nations. "Under UN resolution 46/182 it would be possible to process refugees and migrants in a humane and fair way. It would involve using the many ferries and hospital ships that are currently laid up around the globe. Processing refugees and migrants in a Humanitarian Assistance Zone on the north African coast is far preferable to them arriving on Europe’s shores in a dysfunctional mess by land and sea."
He argues in the same article that creating the zone would also destroy the deadly business of people trafficking and impose a control mechanism on the north African coast to differentiate between economic migrants and refugees under international law. "It is no good waiting outside the jurisdiction with naval and coastguard vessels 12 miles offshore." (Permission is required to enter another country’s 12-mile limit).
"The zone needs to be activated immediately by the UN’s Inter-Agency Standing Committee and it is our duty under humanitarian law to do so."
Tanker owners ‒ surely ‒ have a moral duty to support Mr Kingston's and the ICS' clarion call.