27 June 2014

The Parliamentary Committee of the Council of Europe (PACE) has adopted a report by Rapporteur Tineke Strik entitled “The ‘Left-to-die’ boat: actions and reactions”, which addresses the deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, such as the tragedy in April 2011, where 63 refugees were left to die, despite having been located by various vessels,  and the Lampedusa shipwreck  in October 2013.

The resolution adopted by PACE stresses that these catastrophes revealed the crucial need for Europe to fill the gaps in the legal framework, policies and practices of rescue at sea and urges Council of Europe (CoE) Member States to end all push-back practices and ensure compliance with the right to seek asylum and the right to be protected against refoulement.  

“Important efforts by member states, Italy in particular, have been engaged towards saving more lives at sea. However, a number of concerns still remain including failures to cooperate, define and admit responsibility and learn lessons” from the latest tragic events, Strik stated.

PACE calls for Member States to adopt clear, binding and enforceable common standards with regard to search and rescue operations at sea, including disembarkation, which are consistent with international maritime law, international human rights and refugee law obligations, as well as to abolish the disincentives for shipmasters and fishermen to conduct rescues.

By adopting this resolution, PACE also urges CoE Member States to commit to improving the recording and identification of migrants who die and disappear at sea and ensure family links are maintained or restored following rescue operations.

Furthermore, the document calls for an extension of the recently adopted rules for Frontex – coordinated surveillance of external sea borders to national operations outside the framework of Frontex operations.

PACE further recommends that Member States should ensure that Frontex makes the protection of fundamental rights a priority in its joint operations by, for instance, applying rules on search and rescue, disembarkation and non-refoulement on migrant boats which are on the territorial water of third countries that clearly cannot meet their international obligations regarding search and rescue at sea nor uphold the rights of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Member States should also ensure that Frontex establishes an effective mechanism for individual complaints on violation of fundamental rights, in order to improve its accountability.  

Finally, PACE also recommends that Member States increase resettlement quotas for persons in need of international protection and adopt a common approach to humanitarian visas.

For further information ►

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 27 June 2014.
You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.