Irish NGOs call on Ireland to recommit to search and rescue in the Mediterranean

Posted On: 7 November 2019

Media Release, 7 November 2019

A delegation of organisations (Médecins Sans Frontières, Open Arms, Refugee Rescue, Sea Watch) working in the Mediterranean are currently visiting Ireland to raise awareness about their work.

Coinciding with the visit, a spokesperson for the Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition stated:

“We warmly welcome these frontline responders to Ireland. Their devastating testimony bears witness to what is happening right now in the Mediterranean. Men, women and children board unseaworthy boats, embarking on very dangerous and life-threatening journeys. There are few safe and legal paths to protection for people and search and rescue missions are criminalised, both resulting in further loss of life. The EU-supported Libyan coastguard intercepts people at sea and returns them to Libya where they face arbitrary detention and extraordinary torture. The humanitarian nature of search and rescue has now been replaced by cynical and selfish border securitisation,” said a spokesperson for the IRMC.

The spokesperson went on to say:

“We strongly commend both the proud actions of the Irish Navy who have rescued more than 18,000 people and also Ireland’s acceptance of 60 people from search and rescue boats that were prevented from disembarking.”

“We now call on the Irish Government to work with other EU governments with a view to reactivating humanitarian search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean, establish a mechanism for the predicable disembarkation and prompt relocation of people rescued at sea, and to restart the Irish Navy’s humanitarian missions. Moreover, we need an overhaul of the EU approach to this issue: real solidarity with countries like Greece and Italy, safe and legal routes for refugees and migrants, planned contingency for rescue boats and ceasing policies resulting in people being brought back to Libya. This is an opportunity for Ireland to show continued leadership on these issues.”

ENDS

 

Notes

  • The Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition is comprised of over 20 organisations working in the area of asylum and migration that seek to advance the rights and dignity of people on the move and those in need of international protection.
  • In October the European Parliament voted against a motion supporting search and rescue in the Mediterranean.  Since 2014, 18,898 deaths were registered in the Mediterranean alone.  Although the number of crossings has plummeted since mid-2017, and therefore the number of deaths has decreased, the central Mediterranean continues to be the most dangerous crossing in the world.
  • Ireland’s Navy has played a proud role in the Mediterranean, rescuing more than 18,000 people over several missions, but it has not returned since 2018.
  • Ireland itself has received 60 people from different Search and Rescue boats that were unable to dock in the Mediterranean. However, EU Member States have yet to set up a mechanism ensuring prompt disembarkation and relocation of people rescued at sea.
  • Operation Sophia, the EU’s military operation in the Mediterranean, now uses aerial surveillance only and increasingly relies on the Libyan coastguard resulting in people being returned to Libya and subjected to human rights abuses.
  • In October 2017 the Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition published a report, Pathways to Protection and Inclusion, which proposed a new framework for the Irish Government to improve its response to refugees and migrants. One of the key recommendations of the report is to establish safe and legal pathways of migration for refugees fleeing persecution: Humanitarian visa and admission programmes, an increase in the numbers committed to under the EU relocation and resettlement schemes, fair family reunification processes, and other legal channels of migration such as student visas and work permits, would ensure that men, women and children are not putting their lives at risk to reach Europe, a place they perceive to be safe and free from violence, a place where their rights should be protected.