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Parliamentary questions
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24 September 2018
Answer given by Mr Avramopoulos on behalf of the European Commission
Question reference: E-003174/2018

The Commission followed the Aquarius incident closely.

The Commission welcomes that a solution could be found thanks to the Spanish Government.

The circumstances surrounding the Aquarius incident fall under the international regime of Search and Rescue (SAR).

The international legal framework governing search and rescue is complex. The SAR Convention only lays down an obligation of coordination and cooperation and does not necessarily entail an explicit duty to allow disembarkation in a particular port.

National authorities are responsible in these matters and it is not in the Commission's competence to coordinate search and rescue events or to indicate places for disembarkation.

The Commission has repeatedly recalled that providing genuine humanitarian assistance at sea should not be criminalised. Providing assistance to persons and vessels in distress at sea is an obligation under international law(1) binding upon the EU and its Member States.

In line with the European Council conclusions of 28 June 2018(2), the Commission is exploring, together with the EU Member States and with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organisation for Migration how to enhance operational arrangements as regards the disembarkation of persons following a Search and Rescue operation.

(1)The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Guidelines on the Treatment of Persons rescued at sea and IMO Principles Relating to Administrative Procedures for Disembarking Persons at Sea.

Last updated: 24 September 2018Legal notice