A A+ A++

FRA: Migrant search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean updated

Since January, on average 5 people have died per day crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. On World Refugee Day 2022, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) underlined the struggles civil society continues to face rescuing people in distress in the Mediterranean Sea as smugglers and traffickers often send migrants to sea in overcrowded or unseaworthy boats.

The latest FRA update provides a snapshot of developments, including open and closed legal proceedings, from 2016 until 15 June 2022. Since 2018, national authorities began administrative and criminal proceedings against crew members or vessels. They also tried to limit their access to European ports, causing delays in disembarkation and leaving rescued people at sea for over 24 hours waiting for a safe port. Due to ongoing criminal and administrative proceedings, vessel seizures, as well as mandatory maintenance work, some of these assets are blocked at ports and thus cannot carry out SAR operations. Out of 21 NGO search and rescue boats and planes in the region, only 6 are operational.

Since 2016 Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands and Spain initiated 59 proceedings. Since December 2021, one new legal case has been opened in Italy, in addition to 8 legal proceedings started in 2021. The new case concerned the administrative seizure of a vessel due to technical irregularities relating to maritime security which were identified after port authority inspections. No new case was opened against individual crew members on the basis of ‘aiding and abetting illegal immigration’ charges.

It also contains an overview of difficulties in finding a safe port. In 2022, as in previous years, rescue boats in the Central Mediterranean continued to remain at sea for a long time waiting for authorisation to enter a safe port. Delays in disembarkation risk the safety and physical integrity of rescued people. In 2022 (as of 15 June), at least 19 cases were reported in which people had to remain at sea for over a day waiting for a safe port.