The law of the sea is clear: the rescue of the castaways is an obligation and the survivors must be taken to a safe place. The International Conventions for the Safeguard of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the 1974 Search and Rescue (SAR), indicate that all " captain of a ship at sea who is able to assist and who receives, from any source, information indicating that persons are in distress at sea, is obliged to rush to their rescue ".
Sea-Watch, Sea-Eye, a new generation of NGOs
And must "Drive them to a safe place". In 1982, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea further strengthened these provisions by obliging States Parties to put in place sanctions if vessels flying their flag did not comply with these obligations.
Coast Guard …
Obligations that come up against reality in the Mediterranean Sea, where migrants are dying by the hundreds trying to reach Europe on makeshift boats, while humanitarian ships are increasingly prevented by European countries. "But these states also have obligationsexplains Kiara Neri, senior lecturer at Lyon 3 University. In their territorial waters, they are obliged to rescue the shipwrecked, and, according to the 1974 agreement, they have also established wider search and rescue (SAR) areas in which they must coordinate operations, using their coastguards or transmitting instructions to private vessels in the area. "
Alessandra Vella, a judge right in her boots
Thus, during the night of 16 to 17 July, the Spanish and Moroccan authorities assisted 277 migrants. Similarly, on May 25, a Maltese patrol boat rescued more than 200 migrants in distress in its SAR zone. " But Malta and Italy have overlapping SARs and are sending the ball on who should lead the operations ", explains Kiara Neri. " So far, Italy has always welcomed the shipwrecked, finding solutions with neighboring countries for their distribution. The question that can nevertheless be asked is the response time. Are the response times reasonable, as required by the agreements? " The humanitarian ship Sea-Watch had waited 18 days at sea before forcing an entry into the port of Lampedusa, with on board 42 exhausted migrants.
… business ships
Commercial vessels are also subject to these rescue obligations. "It's a customary law they apply. But if there is no quick landing solution, they risk doing it less and less. Some areas of passage of boats are already bypassed by commercial routes ", reports Kiara Neri. In March, a Turkish tanker rescued 108 migrants. But while he was heading for Libyan ports to land them, the castaways took possession of the ship and set sail for Malta.
With the Sea Watch 3, the failure of the European Union
" Some merchant ships bring migrants directly to Libya, which is not a safe place, explains Alina Miron, professor of law of the sea at the University of Angers. They are sometimes encouraged by the European Coordination and Rescue Centers which do not give a precise order but "invite" to contact the Libyan authorities. " No prosecution has yet been launched against merchant ships, even though they could be punished for bringing the shipwrecked to Libya.
… and Libyan coastguards
Another actor of the rescue at sea: the Libyan coastguards. While the European operation Sophia has not been rescuing since the summer of 2018, the European Union is working with the Libyan authorities. " The EU provides them with the means to monitor their coasts, thus ensuring that these migrants are rescued and blocked. An agreement that does not imply a violation of the Conventions ", Alina Miron analysis. When shipwrecked people are rescued by the coast guards, they are then placed in the detention camps of this country, whose conditions of reception are regularly denounced by the humanitarian organizations.
. (TagsToTranslate) migrants (t) Europe (t) ships (t) save (t) required