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A number of rules of the international law governing the oceans were created at a time far removed from the challenges of the present day. The principle of the freedom of the high seas and its corollary of flag State exclusivity are archetypical examples of this. Today these rules may appear to be obstacles in the effort to combat a number of contemporary maritime threats such as migrant smuggling by sea. This study examines this multi-faceted threat to maritime security against the backdrop of the current international legal framework and State practice in order to establish whether this threat can be effectively addressed within the existing framework of the law of the sea.