Procedure : 2019/2755(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B9-0130/2019

Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 23/10/2019 - 18
CRE 23/10/2019 - 18

Votes :

PV 24/10/2019 - 8.9
CRE 24/10/2019 - 8.9
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

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<TitreSuite>further to Questions for Oral Answer B9‑0052/2019 and B9‑0053/2019</TitreSuite>

<TitreRecueil>pursuant to Rule 136(5) of the Rules of Procedure</TitreRecueil>

<Titre>on search and rescue in the Mediterranean</Titre>


<RepeatBlock-By><Depute>Nicola Procaccini</Depute>

<Commission>{ECR}on behalf of the ECR Group</Commission>



European Parliament resolution on search and rescue in the Mediterranean


The European Parliament,

 having regard to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),–

 having regard to the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (hereinafter ‘the SAR Convention’),

 having regard to Council Framework Decision 2002/946/JHA on the strengthening of the penal framework to prevent the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence[1],

 having regard to Council Directive 2002/90/EC of 28 November 2002 defining the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence[2] (Facilitation Directive),

 having regard to the European Council conclusions on migration of 28 June 2018,

 having regard to the questions to Council on search and rescue in the Mediterranean (O-000024/2019 – B9‑0052/2019 and O-000025 – B9‑0053/2019),

 having regard to Rules 136(5) and 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas, according to figures from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the death toll in the Mediterranean has fallen in the last year (1 041 during the period from 1 January to 2 October 2019, compared with 1 890 during the same period in 2018);

B. whereas Article 19(2)(g) of UNCLOS provides that the passage of a foreign ship shall be considered to be prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State if in the territorial sea it engages in the loading or unloading of any commodity, currency or person contrary to the customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations of the coastal State;

C. whereas Chapter I (3)(13) of the Annex to the SAR Convention provides that a ‘distress phase’ is a situation wherein there is a reasonable certainty that a person, a vessel or other craft is threatened by grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance;

D. whereas Chapter II (3) (2) of the Annex to the SAR Convention recalls that rescue coordination centres and rescue sub-centres are the only entities entitled to arrange for the receipt of distress alerts originating from within a particular search and rescue region;

E. whereas all vessels operating in the Mediterranean have the obligation to respect the relevant international conventions and national laws;

F. whereas, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of 27 September 2019 the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) had rescued or intercepted 6 889 persons at sea, and brought them back to Libya; whereas the UNHCR provided medical assistance and core-relief items to persons disembarked;

G. whereas in the period up to 30 September 2019, 7 759 migrants received voluntary humanitarian return assistance from the IOM to return from Libya to 33 countries of origin, and 7 077 of these migrants were assisted with support from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa;

H. whereas on 26 September 2019, the UNHCR evacuated 66 vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers from Libya to the newly established Emergency Transit Mechanism in Kigali, Rwanda;

I. whereas, according to data from the Italian Ministry of Interior, as of 29 September 2019, Tunisia is the main country of departure towards Italy;

J. whereas the Joint Declaration of Intent on a controlled emergency procedure signed in Malta on 23 September 2019 is a vague commitment to a more predictable and efficient temporary solidarity mechanism to ensure disembarkation of migrants taken aboard on the high seas by vessels; whereas it is currently supported by a very limited number of Member States;

K. whereas Framework Decision 2002/946/JHA on the strengthening of the penal framework to prevent the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence lays down minimum rules regarding criminal penalties for facilitating irregular entry as defined in Council Directive 2002/90/EC even if it is not committed for financial gain and extends the rules to irregular transit, to instigators and accomplices;

L. whereas according Council Directive 2002/90/EC a facilitator is any person who intentionally assists a person who is not a national of a Member State to enter, or transit across, the territory of a Member State in breach of the laws of the State concerned on the entry or transit of aliens; whereas according EU law facilitation of illegal migration is not necessarily linked to financial gain;

M. whereas smugglers’ business models abuse the search and rescue (SAR) rules enshrined in international law and, with the aim of carrying out criminal activities, take advantage of the presence in the Mediterranean Sea of private vessels owned by NGOs; whereas smugglers are very swift to react to any development of political contingencies both at European and national level;

N. whereas in order to definitively shatter the smugglers’ business model, thereby preventing the tragic loss of life, and to eliminate the incentive to embark on perilous journeys, the Council and the Commission should swiftly explore the concept of regional disembarkation platforms, in close cooperation with relevant third countries, as well as the UNHCR and the IOM, in accordance with the Council conclusions of 28 June 2018;

O. whereas the development of a permanent approach to SAR and the establishment of a permanent distribution mechanism of those having been rescued at sea represent major unintended pull factors, encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths;

P. whereas national and voluntary resettlement schemes represent a real alternative to unsafe migration pathways for those who are in real need of international protection;

Q. whereas a long-term approach to African development, which addresses the root causes of illegal migration, would reduce departures of economic and climate migrants;

1. Recalls the obligation under the international law of the sea to assist persons in distress; calls on all public and private vessels conducting SAR operations to comply with the instructions given by the competent Rescue Coordination Centre and cooperate with both the Member States’ authorities and Frontex in order to make sure that both migrants’ lives and Member States’ security are duly protected;

2. Calls on all actors in the Mediterranean involved in SAR operations to transmit information related to persons in distress at sea to the competent authorities for SAR;

3. Recalls that Member States shall take the measures necessary to ensure that the infringements defined in Articles 1 and 2 of Directive 2002/90/EC are punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties, which may entail extradition;

4. Recalls that under the EU legislation on facilitation of illegal migration, Member States are entitled to assess on a case-by-case basis whether the SAR operation conducted by private vessels is pure humanitarian assistance;

5. Calls on the Member States to make the registration of NGO vessels as transparent as possible, in order to guarantee clear information on the origin of their financing;

6. Recalls that Member States are fully entitled to implement their national laws when assessing whether to authorise the entry of NGO vessels to their ports;

7. Recalls that international organisations active on the ground are proactively working in order to evacuate swiftly people in need of international protection held in detention centres in Libya, and that pilot projects are currently being carried out by the same organisations with the aim of returning those who are not in need of international protection to their country of origin;

8. Points out that migrants evacuated from detention centres in Libya can either obtain protection in or be safely returned to third countries other than Member States;

9. Points out that the only way to reduce deaths at sea is by stopping new dangerous departures;

10. Calls on the Council and the Commission to swiftly explore the concept of regional disembarkation platforms, in close cooperation with relevant third countries, as well as the UNHCR and the IOM, in order to definitively shatter the smugglers’ business model;

11. Calls on the Member States to step up their efforts to set up voluntary resettlement schemes as an alternative to unsafe migration pathways for those migrants who are in real need of international protection to come to the European Union;

12. Calls on Commission to propose rational and feasible polices in order to make sure that only those migrants genuinely in need of international protection come to the European Union, and that they do so via safe pathways;

13. Calls on the Commission to work constructively on enhancing cooperation with the main third countries of origin and transit with the aim of implementing long-term solutions which address the root causes of economic and climate migration;

14. Invites the Member States to consider the establishment of a more structural surveillance system for departures from Libya, and to assess the possibility of a naval blockade off the coastal of Libya with the aim of stopping smugglers’ criminal activities;

15. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, Frontex, the European Asylum Support Office, Europol and the IOM.


[1] OJ L 328, 5.12.2002, p. 1.

[2] OJ L 328, 5.12.2002, p. 17.

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