People Rescued By Sea-Watch and Sea-Eye Allowed To Disembark Following Days At Sea – “This is not a victory!”

Press release
Marseille / Geneva / Palermo / Berlin, 09. January 2019


SOS MEDITERRANEE: “This is not a victory! Urgent need for a shared, coordinated and predictable disembarkation mechanism.”

Following the announcement by Maltese authorities of the upcoming disembarkation in Malta of 49 people rescued by Sea Watch and Sea Eye ships in December, SOS MEDITERRANEE expresses relief for the safety of these people and condemns the constraints shown by European Member States to conclude lengthy and degrading negotiations after 19 untenable days at sea.

SOS MEDITERRANEE team hails the marine crews and rescue teams on board of the Sea Watch 3 and Professor Albrecht Penck ships, for providing professional care to these survivors for days and nights.

Today, the unnecessary, unlawful and disgraceful time spent at sea for days by 49 men, women and children, is finally coming to an end. At no point shall this decision be considered as a victory by Europe and the EU Member States”, said Frédéric Penard, SOS MEDITERRANEE’s Head of Operations. “For the past 19 days, every single day, lack of coherence from the EU Member States has just put people’s lives at further risk. This is unacceptable!”.

Ships saving lives have been experiencing stands-off at sea, amidst pending political negotiations, for 7 months now. Vulnerable people have been experiencing the height of Europe’s disregard of their rights and humanity after having spent months or years in fear for their lives in Libya.

Today, a shared but delayed solution was found by eight EU Member States. SOS MEDITERRANEE urges Member States to now provide a predictable and sustainable shared solution of disembarkation.

Since June 2018, SOS MEDITERRANEE has been urging European States to put together an effective, coordinated and predictable mechanism guaranteeing safe ports of disembarkation for people rescued at sea. Resolutions taken in this direction by the EU Commission in June were never put into force.

Political negotiations by EU Member States on disembarkation and relocation conditions shall never occur while men, women and children are left at sea. Under maritime conventions, rescue operations are considered complete only once survivors have been brought to a place of safety, where their basic needs and human rights are ensured. In all circumstances, states have an obligation to coordinate and cooperate to ensure people rescued at sea are disembarked in the nearest place of safety as soon as possible.

Despite European efforts trying to prevent people from reaching safety, people continue to flee Libya on unseaworthy boats”, said Sophie Beau, co-founder of SOS MEDITERRANEE. “EU Member States, in full disregard of maritime conventions, were able to effectively coordinate in order to finance and train Libyan coastguards who intercept boats and take people back to dire conditions in Libya. Now, they must effectively coordinate disembarkation into places of safety in compliance with their legal obligations under international maritime law”.

For immediate release.
Photo credits: Yann Levy / SOS MEDITERRANEE. For editorial use only, no commercial use.

For further information please contact:
International: Laura Garel / +33 634 395 818 / l.garel@sosmediterranee.org
France: Julie Bégin / +33 6 67 89 72 10 / j.begin@sosmediterranee.org
Germany: Jana Ciernioch / +49 30 2205 6811 / j.ciernioch@sosmediterranee.org
Italy: Avra Fialas / +33 6 16 46 48 03 /comms@sosmediterranee.org
Switzerland: Claire Juchat / +33 6 38 32 92 37 / c.juchat@sosmediterranee.org