Migrants: S&Ds back obligatory search and rescue missions at sea

S&Ds call for urgent joint EU action to stop deaths in the Mediterranean

Two months after the recent Lampedusa tragedy, where more than 300 migrants lost their lives on a boat in distress, last night the S&D members of the European Parliament committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs has backed a proposal to introduce binding rules on search, rescue and assistance to migrants at sea.

In order to be brought into force the new rules, now also, need to be endorsed by the Council.

S&D Vice-president Sylvie Guillaume MEP said:

"By approving some clear rules on sea operations coordinated by Frontex, the EU agency for border control, the European Parliament has sent out a positive signal. Within a single legal instrument, the proposed rules incorporate the detailed and effective implementation of the relevant international legal obligations regarding search and rescue and disembarkation of migrants.

"We have succeeded in demonstrating that beyond rhetoric, the EU has acted legally and politically to ensure the respect of fundamental rights in the context of maritime surveillance and rescue operations, including the full respect of the principle of non-refoulement (prevention of refugees being sent back to dangerous situations). Recent discussions have shown that once again, while it's easy to talk about solidarity and accountability, it's much more difficult to back up one's words with actions ..."

S&D lead negotiator on external sea borders, Austrian MEP Josef Weidenholzer said:

"EU countries need to learn the lessons from Lampedusa.

"One of our main achievements was the prohibition of refoulement of refugees on the open seas. Furthermore, we were able to make rescue missions at sea obligatory, providing the Fortress Europe with a safety cushion.

"EU countries will also not be allowed to disembark or force migrants to enter a third country where human rights are not respected and where lives could be at risk. Finally, this regulation obliges Frontex to present regular reports on the respect of fundamental rights, which will lead to a higher degree of public control".