Fordham Law Review Online

Desperate Crossings, Unjust Seas: Challenging the Interdiction and Forcible Return of Asylum Seekers on the High Seas

May 13, 2024

In the past two years, irregular maritime migration has reached levels not seen in decades.  International human rights law requires that states screen migrants’ asylum claims and prohibits states from returning migrants to a place where they face persecution.  However, due to recent trends in refugee securitization, states attempt to dodge their international obligations by going to the high seas and forcibly returning migrant vessels.  States are not held accountable for these forced returns, owing to gray areas in overlapping provisions of maritime and human rights law.  This Essay analyzes ambiguous maritime law provisions, interpreting them in accordance with relevant principles of human rights law.  Ultimately, it concludes that these high-seas interdictions violate both maritime and human rights law, and it proposes a more results-oriented approach to international law.