IOM and NAUSS Host Regional Workshop on Border Guards and Maritime Search and Rescue

Jeddah – The Naif Arab University for Security Sciences (NAUSS) and the Border Authorities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia together with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) hosted a high-level regional training workshop on Port Security: Border Guards and Their Role in Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR). The three-day workshop was hosted by NAUSS in Jeddah between 28 to 30 September 2021 and chaired by his Excellency Major General Mohammed bin Abdullah Hamdan Al-Shehri, Director General of the Border Guard Directorate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and his Excellency Dr. Abdulmajeed bin Abdullah Albanyan, President of Naif Arab University for Security Sciences.

This workshop, organized in the framework of the existing partnership cooperation between NAUSS, IOM and other related UN entities, gathered over 100 senior officials from 13 countries including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Morocco, the United Republic of the Comoros, the State of Kuwait, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the State of Qatar, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, the Sultanate of Oman, the Republic of Yemen, the Lebanese Republic, the State of Libya, and the Republic of Sudan.

In addition to IOM, representatives of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) also shared and exchanged their expertise with the delegates.

“Strengthening border management capacities of governments is one of IOM’s key priorities as part of enhancing migration governance in line with international law.” said Mrs. Carmela Godeau, IOM MENA Regional Director. “Facilitating safe and rights-based cross-border human mobility for migrants, while maintaining border security, supporting border guards’ engagement is one of the critical components in IOM’s capacity development efforts for its Member States.”

“I sincerely hope this workshop will not only help us exchange valuable experiences and expertise, but also build stronger partnerships and programming to enhance the safety and protection of migrants as well as the integrity of borders in the complex context of SAR”, added Kristiina Lilleorg, IOM MENA’s Senior Regional Thematic Specialist for immigration and border management.

The objective of the workshop was to exchange experiences between Arab law enforcement and security services, and international and regional organizations to enhance border guards understanding of the relevant international law norms, notably Law of the Sea and Human Rights Law and their relevance to SAR. Importantly, the workshop facilitated the exchange of experience, best practices and challenges in SAR operations. The workshop also highlighted the importance of cooperation and coordination between the different actors in SAR operations to ensure the safety and security of migrants and integrity of states’ borders and high seas

“The universal human right to life is at the core of SAR. A rights-based approach to SAR will help ensure more refined security mechanisms to combat smuggling and trafficking, while offering better rights protection for rescued migrants,” said Gianna Sanchez, IOM International Migration Law Officer.

In the MENA region, IOM enjoys comprehensive engagement with governments in the field of immigration and border management. The programming covers SAR, humanitarian border management, counter-migrant-smuggling, and many others and a growing number of governments in the region are exchanging expertise and experience with IOM toward enhanced rights-based migration management. Joint regional expert initiatives are a new and strategic focus of cooperation.  

This regional event followed the NAUSS-IOM-UNOCT joint workshop that took place in July 2021in Cairo, hosted by the Government of Egypt, on the use of biometrics and traveler information to enhance border security capacities, gathering delegates from all Arab League Member States.


The need for SAR along perilous maritime migration routes worldwide is clear. For example, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has recorded the deaths of 22,673 migrants trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean since 2014, including 1,379 deaths recorded so far in 2021. The remains of the majority (818) have not been recovered and their families may therefore never know what has happened to them.

During the same period, at least 786 migrants have died while crossing the West African-Atlantic Route to Spain’s Canary Islands, but frequent reports of “invisible shipwrecks”, without any survivors, suggest the true number of missing migrants at sea is likely much higher. SAR operations by states and civilian actors have managed to rescue several thousands of migrants in distress at sea this year. However, the continuation of drownings indicates the increasing importance of efficient SAR in saving lives.

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