Many migrants around the world are forced to take irregular sea journeys to seek asylum, refuge, or other paths to a new life. Those unsafe sea routes present a high risk of death, exploitation, and violence at the hands of smugglers and traffickers. To protect the lives and rights of the migrants at sea, proper Search and Rescue (SAR) operations need to be provided by the international community. Several bodies of international law place duties on governments and additional parties to cooperate and ensure the rendering of assistance and prompt disembarkation for migrants in distress. Nevertheless, SAR operations continue to face numerous human rights challenges, including dangerous rescue practices and disembarkation in countries of feared persecution or torture. 

The IOM IML Unit has asked the Capstone team to develop a script for a training course on the international legal frameworks associated with assisting migrants at sea. The target audience for the training includes government officials, NGOs, IOM staff and others involved in SAR operations. 

In the script, the team outlined the rights and duties of relevant stakeholders, explaining existing international legal frameworks relevant to maritime migration, in particular the law of the sea and international human rights laws, and how they interact. The team also drew upon case studies from regions of the world that observe large irregular movements by sea, identifying practices that demonstrate a deflection of responsibility and presenting ideal SAR scenarios that would maintain the rights of migrants at sea and ensure their safety and well-being.