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Debates
Wednesday, 23 October 2019 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Search and rescue in the Mediterranean (debate)
MPphoto
 

  Juan Fernando López Aguilar, author. – Madam President, I am humbled and honoured to present this draft motion for a resolution on such a sensitive issue: search and rescue in the Mediterranean. I mean it. Search and rescue of human lives in the Mediterranean against the unbearable death toll in the Mediterranean that we have mourned so many times throughout the debates of this plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

I’ll make some remarks in English, according to the documents that have been widely circulated throughout the debate within the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and then I’ll move into Spanish to make some final statements.

Presenting the case is just recalling the importance of the historic record of the resolutions of this European Parliament, quite a number of them. Every time there has been a tragedy in the Mediterranean – 1000 dead human lives in the Mediterranean only this year – we have mourned them on a regular basis, almost ritually. It is not the case that we ritually deplore this tragedy. It is about time that we bring about change and call on the Commission and the Council for real action on the matter.

This is the aim of this concise resolution that has tried its best to encompass all of the component elements of the rationale behind the different political groups in this House which are willing to spread the message – to reach out to the European citizens – that we actually do care about the necessity to stop this death toll and this tragedy.

So many lives are lost because they don’t have a regular pathway to make it to Europe. That is why they expose themselves to trafficking in human beings and the most unbearable violations of human rights on the other side of the Mediterranean coast, namely, Libya. So we not only make the case for the necessity of enhancing legal pathways, namely humanitarian corridors, but also to call Libya by its name: no safe place, no safe port for disembarkation.

We care about enhancing the capacity to respond of the actual agency, which is Frontex in cooperation with some Member States and also in cooperation with the Libyan coastguard, but we know that people trying to flee from Libya are subject to the Libyan authorities, which deem it to be a criminal offence against the Libyan legal order to try to flee from Libyan territory irregularly when they are not given the chance to make it regularly. That means, in practical terms, that those who are sent back to Libya are subject to the most inhumane violations of their most basic rights. We should not turn a blind eye to that situation.

There is also a very important legal point that has been present on a regular basis in the ongoing discussions and that is the need to stop the criminalisation of NGOs trying to save lives in the Mediterranean and trying to cooperate in the operation of saving lives. Of course we pay respect to the efforts that have been deployed by public authorities, namely, Italy and Spain. They have invested massive public resources, as have the rest of the southern bordering countries of the European Union: Malta and Greece. They spend their own resources to save lives in the Mediterranean, but they have to do it under a European framework, which makes sense at a European level and which is consistent with European law.

By European law I also mean international humanitarian law, which is at stake because international humanitarian principles are part of European law, according to the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in 2009, 10 years ago now, along with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which enshrines in Article 18 the right to seek asylum.

It is 20 years since Tampere, which launched the call for a European space of liberty, justice and security which makes sure that the response towards asylum seekers is a European response, consistent with European values and Europe’s foundations, and this means fairly shared responsibility towards the issue, as in the mandate of Article 80 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

All these component elements are in place. What we call on the Commission to do is to do its best with the Council in this new mandate for a fresh start to unblock the asylum package as a whole, to make sure that the Facilitation Directive is reviewed, to stop the criminalisation of NGOs, to open ports for safe disembarkation for those vessels which have saved lives in the sea, according to international humanitarian law, because the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was codified in Jamaica in 1982, and the conventions on rescue and safety in the seas adopted in the 70s in the last century are still binding on all Member States, as they are binding for the European Union itself. So there has to be a European framework for response which really does make sense.

Finalmente, quiero simplemente señalar la necesidad de que el Parlamento Europeo, en la votación que se celebrará mañana jueves, muestre la misma voluntad de marcar su mensaje propio ante el Consejo y la Comisión que mostró en resoluciones anteriores, notablemente en la Resolución que adoptó el concepto de «holistic approach», una visión comprensiva ante la migración y el asilo que lleva la firma de sus ponentes en aquel momento: la señora Metsola, del Partido Popular, y la señora Kyenge, del Grupo Socialista. En aquella Resolución importante se lanzó un mensaje humanitario y de compromiso de cambio. Queda todavía pendiente, como quedó pendiente el mandato que adoptó este Parlamento en la legislatura anterior de acabar con la criminalización de las ONG, modificando la «Facilitation Directive».

Este es el mensaje que quería compartir y agradeceré el voto de todos los grupos parlamentarios que estén dispuestos a renovar ese mensaje ante la Comisión y el Consejo en su nuevo mandato.

 
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