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As early as 2004, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) created “Guidelines on the Treatment of Persons Rescued at Sea,” which followed IMO Assembly resolution A. 920(22) on the review of safety measures and procedures for the treatment of persons rescued at sea. These Guidelines are supplemented by an appendix entitled “Some comments on relevant international law” (“Comments”). It comes as no surprise that the IMO’s work in this area refers to other maritime documents such as the Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR). Reference in the Comments to the 1951 Refugee Convention is made only briefly. In this context, the differing obligations of the flag state, the coastal state, and the ship’s master can lead to situations in which the protection awarded to refugees is less than complete, as happened in the 2001 case of the MV Tampa. The IMO Guidelines seek to prevent such a scenario by requiring flag and coastal states to “have effective arrangements in place for timely assistance to shipmasters in relieving them of persons recovered by ships at sea.” However, these rules are often unenforceable by individual claimants – unlike the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This research project examines the question of whether such a positive obligation on the part of the coastal state also exists under the ECHR. It is the overall aim of this research project to contribute to a better understanding of the maritime application of the ECHR and of human rights obligations of state actors in the maritime sector.

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