In recent years, dramatic images of migration—struggling boats crammed dangerously beyond capacity; two sisters, champion swimmers, towing their foundering boat to safety; a little boy’s body lying face down in the sand—have seized worldwide attention and catapulted unauthorized maritime migration onto national and international policy agendas. Whether it is the overwhelming Mediterranean crisis or movements across the Bay of Bengal and the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden, in the Caribbean, or around Australia, crisis has followed crisis, leaving almost intractable problems for policymakers. The challenges have only become more complex, widespread, and dangerous in recent years.
While the issues presented by unauthorized maritime migration are constantly evolving, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) provides analysis, in a book discussed at this event, on some common themes that have emerged over the past decade, along with practical recommendations. This book, All at Sea: The Policy Challenges of Rescue, Interception, and Long-Term Response to Maritime Migration, is based on case studies of unauthorized movements by sea in several parts of the world. This book discussion explores the different facets of maritime migration—the multiple state and nonstate actors; the mixed flows of refugees and other migrants; the overlapping and sometimes contradictory legal regimes; fluctuating state policies; the secondary movements of people from countries of first asylum; the constantly shifting sources, routes, and destinations; and the inter-relatedness with other equally complex problems—and how these together create a “wicked problem” for governments, civil society, the private sector, and international organizations to tackle together.