Protecting the EU's borders: "Saving lives should be mandatory" 

Carlos Coelho 

The tragedy off the coast of Lampedusa on 3 October when hundreds of refugees drowned sparked calls for a more humane approach to migration in Europe to prevent the Mediterranean becoming the "graveyard of Europe". To achieve this, the rules for search and rescue missions conducted by Frontex, the EU's agency for external border security, are being updated. We discussed the details with Carlos Coelho, a Portuguese member of the EPP group who wrote a report about this.

What are the exact measures that will be implemented? What will be different?

There is one big change: the governments laid down non-binding rules on rescue missions, but as the Court of Justice declared the decision invalid on legal grounds, we want to make these rules compulsory. Some member states don’t seem to be happy about that, but after the last tragedy, some prime ministers said, "We can’t let the Mediterranean become a graveyard of Europe." Everything connected to saving lives should be mandatory.

Some neighbouring countries are stepping up border controls in the region struck by humanitarian crisis. Will we be able to prevent further tragedies if the number of refugees coming by the sea rises?

We are strengthening rules to have a humane approach. Apart from the search and rescue mission’s rules, we emphasise the need for not allowing immigrants to disembark in third countries, where their lives can be endangered.

To solve these problems we have to reinforce humanitarian and development aid, providing peaceful solutions to the crises. If we don’t succeed, we’re going to see a lot of people searching refuge in the EU. Still we need to do more. Otherwise no force could prevent further tragedies.

The civil liberties committee will vote on the report on Monday 9 December.