Email from Aquarius to Tunisian Navy, copying French MRCC
The United Nation High Commission for Refugees has confirmed that they are sending representatives to conduct interviews with the survivors on board the Aquarius. We have not heard when this will happen. We believe that they are in contact with Tunisian authorities. We are still concerned that returning these survivors to their home country would be a breach of international refugee law, and we believe that the guidance of UNHCR is important to find the appropriate outcome.
Thank you for coordinating this event and I hope we can find a quick and suitable solution.
1951 Refugee Convention
Article 33: Prohibition of expulsion or return (“refoulement”)
“No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” [Click here for legal reference]
UNHCR Advisory Opinion on the Extraterritorial Application of Non-Refoulement Obligations under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol
For the reasons set out below, UNHCR is of the view that the purpose, intent and meaning of Article 33(1) of the 1951 Convention are unambiguous and establish an obligation not to return a refugee or asylum-seeker to a country where he or she would be risk of persecution or other serious harm, which applies wherever a State exercises jurisdiction, including at the frontier, on the high seas
or on the territory of another State. [Click here for legal reference]
IMO RESOLUTION MSC.167(78
) : GUIDELINES ON THE TREATMENT OF PERSONS RESCUED AT SEA
“Shipmaster should […] comply with any relevant requirements of the Government responsible for the SAR
region where the survivors
were recovered, or of another responding coastal State, and seek additional guidance
from those authorities where difficulties arise in complying with such requirements.” [Click here for legal reference]