24 April 2015

In a new report Europe’s Sinking Shame. The Failure to Save Refugees and Migrants at Sea’, Amnesty International analyses the gap in search and rescue operations in the central Mediterranean following the end of Italy’s search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum.

Amnesty’s investigation on three accidents occurred between January and March 2015, including testimonies of shipwreck survivors, reveals that in two cases, more lives could have been saved if vessels had been patrolling the sea further south, closer to Libya and meaning people could have been assisted earlier. In addition, according to the organisation, in the third accident, professional rescuers could have prevented one of the boats from capsizing.

The report shows that fewer and small vessels, such as coastal patrols deployed under Frontex operation Triton, as well as merchant vessels, are not well equipped for search and rescue and their crew are inadequately trained to assist people who face serious health and safety concerns in distress.

Amnesty also underlines the increased pressure on commercial ships to rescue refugees and migrants following the end of Mare Nostrum. According to the International Chamber of Shipping, in 2015, as of the beginning of April, 111 merchant ships were diverted to search and rescue calls in the central Mediterranean. 41 of these rescued 3,809 people.

Amnesty International urges European governments to deploy a European humanitarian operation to save the lives of refugees and migrants at sea, of a size corresponding with the magnitude of the need for search and rescue.

Moreover, Amnesty International urges European governments to provide safe and legal access to the EU by increasing the number of resettlement places, humanitarian admissions and visas for people in need of international protection.


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