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OHCHR: Italy-EU search and rescue code could increase Mediterranean deaths

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Ms. Agnes Callamard, has sought clarification from the European Union, Italian authorities and Libyan authorities about the new code of conduct imposed on organizations rescuing migrants and refugees from the Mediterranean Sea in a press release in Geneva on 15th August 2017. 

The code of conduct, drawn up by Italy with the support of the European Commission, is part of a new action plan designed to support Italy, reduce the pressure of migrant arrivals, and “increase solidarity”. The Special Rapporteur said that procedures included in the 13 points code of conduct could restrict the NGOs life-saving work and result in more deaths in the Mediterranean Sea. According to Ms Callamard, the resulting loss of lives, being foreseeable and preventable, would constitute a violation of Italy’s human rights obligations.

The European Commission is also seeking enhanced cooperation with Libya, investing 46 million euros in support of the Libyan border- and coast guards. This includes their search and rescue operations that could bring refugees and migrants back to further violations of their human rights in Libya. The cooperation with the Libyan coast guards cannot happen in the absence of demonstrable guarantees that the rights of intercepted migrants and refugees will be respected.

Futhermore the European Commission must support Italy in meeting its human rights obligations to provide search and rescue in the Mediterranean and to uphold the prohibition on refoulement. Other EU Member States must accept their shared responsibility of reception and relocation of refugees and migrants.